Mental health workers expelled from Nauru

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Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has confirmed it has ceased mental health work with refugees on Nauru after the island’s Government told the organisation it was no longer required.

MSF said it was informed on Friday 5 October by the Government of Nauru that it was no longer required and terminated its provision of mental health care services on the island.

They were given 24 hours to leave the country.

MSF says that all of its international staff have now left the island where they had been working since November 2017.

Barri Phatarfod, the founder and president of Australian organisation Doctors for Refugees, told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program she was stunned by the Nauruan Government’s move.

“It’s incredibly dangerous and it’s grossly irresponsible,” she said.

“Nowhere in medicine do you ever see 24 hours to stop, [there is] no basis to have suddenly stopped midway through.

“The explanation is that mental health support is no longer required.

“It’s clearly required; self-harm syndrome, life-threatening psychiatric disorders.”

Psychiatrist Beth O’Connor, who had been stationed by MSF on Nauru for 11 months, said the refugees would find it difficult to receive the critical health care they needed.

Court-ordered medical evacuations of refugees from Nauru would be hampered by MSF’s removal, she said.

“The process of both children and adults with mental and physical illnesses being transferred off Nauru is complicated,” O’Connor said.

“There is a lack of independent opinions and that is problematic.”

It has been speculated that the MSF practice of giving patients access to their files, some of which have become public, was the trigger for the Government’s decision to evict the organisation.

MSF had provided its refugee patients with their medical records which had been used in court applications for evacuation, but O’Connor said MSF had no control over what patients did with their records.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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