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Australian Parliament urged to retain vital medical panel

25 July 2019

The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan, has urged the Australian Parliament to continue the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) established earlier this year under the Medevac legislation.

The IHAP enables independent medical experts to advise on health care for seriously ill asylum seekers and refugees, including those with severe mental illness and at high risk of suicide, who are held in regional processing countries such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Associate Professor John Allan said that the IHAP has an important role in monitoring, assessing and reporting on the health of the people detained and the standard of health services and care provided to them.

‘Given the high number of presentations and admissions of asylum seekers and refugees for mental health reasons, we believe the panel is an imperative safeguard for the government, the people being held offshore, and the medical specialists and other health practitioners providing care offshore,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘It will also contribute to greater transparency around the quality of treatment and mental health care made available to these most vulnerable and marginalised of people.’     

‘With the panel just recently established, it would be very premature to suggest that it is either not needed or not working well before it has been properly tested,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

As requested by the Minister of Home Affairs, the RANZCP provided nominations of individual psychiatrists with expertise for the consideration of the Minister, for at least one appointment to the IHAP.

The RANZCP President noted that while the members of the panel have now been finalized, the IHAP’s first quarterly report does not have the input of a psychiatrist.

‘For this first reporting period, 2-31 March 2019, the panel did not yet comprise a psychiatrist – also, during this time, the panel did not conduct any reviews and made no recommendations regarding the transfer of any relevant transitory person,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

The RANZCP calls on the Australian Parliament to maintain the Medevac legislation and allow the IHAP to fulfil its function. It also supports the referral of the Medevac repeal legislation for inquiry by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Legislative Committee.

‘We believe that universal access to safe and timely health care is a basic human right and, as such, should not be compromised for anyone.’

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email