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AMA President meets with Border Force chief medical officer

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AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, continued the AMA’s ongoing advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees when he met the Australian Border Force Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Brayley, in Canberra on 9 September, 2016.

It was the second meeting between an AMA President and Dr Brayley since the CMO role was created a year ago.

Dr Gannon noted that the AMA’s position on health care of asylum seekers has not changed, and reiterated that the AMA will always be focussed on ensuring the proper provision of health care to those in need. 

“The AMA has received representations from asylum seekers, refugees and their advocates concerning the provision of health care and, in some cases, asking the AMA for specific help,” Dr Gannon said. 

“Dr Brayley and I discussed the complexities of offshore immigration detention facilities and the difficulties in dealing with individual asylum seeker cases, along with the standards of care and the measures being undertaken to improve the health care available in offshore detention facilities.

“The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been providing the AMA with regular updates and information about the health of asylum seekers. 

“Dr Brayley and I agreed to meet again to continue this important advocacy and dialogue on the health and well-being of asylum seekers and refugees.”

Dr Brayley was appointed as CMO and inaugural Surgeon General of the Australian Border Force (ABF) in September 2015.

His role is to oversee and coordinate a consolidated health function within ABF, including at offshore detention centres, leading to improved and more consistent health policies.

“This new position will also allow doctors to raise issues through appropriate clinical channels and advocate on behalf of their patients,” Department of Immigration and Border Protection Secretary, Mike Pezzullo, said at the time.

Dr Brayley is a consultant psychiatrist, health administrator and statutory office holder, who served as the Public Advocate of South Australia from 2008 until taking up the ABF appointment.

He used the role of Public Advocate to campaign for the rights of people with mental illness and disability, and exposed the plight of mental health patients in South Australian prisons.

In an interview with InDaily last year, Dr Brayley said the CMO role had enough power to make meaningful change.

“Questions about standards of health care, and also issues raised by doctors and other health professionals about their patients in immigration detention, will be able to be brought to this new role,” Dr Brayley said.

“Many of the same issues that I deal with as Public Advocate, and suggest solutions about in my present role, I will be responding to in this new role … ensuring that high quality health services are delivered, including mental health services, that are comparable in standard to those that are generally provided to the Australian community.

“Rather than being the advocate, I expect to be responding to advocacy from health practitioners about their patients.

“This new position is an opportunity to contribute to ongoing improvements in health services for people in immigration detention both in Australia and at the offshore centres on Nauru and Manus Island.”

Maria Hawthorne