Manus Island detainee Hamid Khazaei, who died in 2014. Photo: SuppliedDesperate refugees arrested trying to return to Manus Island centre
A number of senior medical professionals have broken their silence about the 2014 death of Manus Island detainee Hamid Khazaei, claiming the failure to act on urgent requests to evacuate the gravely-ill asylum seeker cost him his life.
The doctors who spoke to the ABC’s Four Corners program raised ongoing concerns about the level of medial care available to those inside the controversial offshore detention facilities, risking two years in jail for disclosing information about Australia’s asylum seeker detention system – an offence for detention system workers under the Border Force Act.
Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said while people might question if Mr Khazaei should have travelled from Indonesia to seek asylum in Australia, they should not accept that his death was inevitable.
“It wasn’t,” Professor Owler said. “He could have been saved and he could have been treated properly.”
The 24-year-old Iranian soccer fan first presented to a medical clinic within the Manus Island detention centre on August 23, 2014, complaining of fever, chills and body aches.
Two days later an urgent request was filed to fly Mr Khazaei to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, as his condition deteriorated. As the request was filed at 1.15pm, medical staff were hopeful he would travel on a 5.30pm commercial flight, escorted by a doctor.
However Four Corners revealed it took almost five hours for the request to be responded to by a bureaucrat from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Canberra who questioned the advice, saying they were “wondering why” he couldn’t be treated at a local hospital.
“[Department] staff on island are being pushed for this urgent transfer in the next 18 hours however I don’t have adequate information to be able to escalate at this point if this is still warranted,” the email said.
Professor Owler said it was this decision that sealed the young man’s fate – as Mr Khazaei missed the 5.30pm flight.
“A patient with sepsis can deteriorate very quickly and that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
“If he had been transferred to Port Moresby… he may still be alive today. I really question what the reason was, why the transfer was delayed.”
The next morning a doctor working with International SOS, the company that owns the health service contractor on Manus Island, recommended that the asylum seeker be transferred by medical air ambulance directly to Australia.
Dr Stewart Condon – now president with Médecins Sans Frontières Australia – said his advice was also ignored by public servants.
Mr Khazaei had three heart attacks after arriving at the Port Moresby hospital on August 26, a Tuesday.
“Maybe by that time he is already brain dead, although he hadn’t been declared that way,” Dr Condon said.
The next day the asylum seeker was finally flown to Australia, where he never regained consciousness. His life support was turned off on September 5. A bacteria called chromobacterium violaceum had caused a rare and aggressive infection that spread from a cut on his leg.
His friend, Benham Satah, who is still on Manus Island, said Mr Khazaei had talked a lot about the future.
“He was telling me he wanted to be a person that Australia always will be proud of. But Australia didn’t give him a chance to prove that,” Mr Satah said.
Mr Khazaei’s death is being investigated by the Queensland coroner.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.