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Responding to the Christmas Island health care crisis

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To the Editor: Recent media reports of unsafe maternal and child health practices at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre suggest an alarming contrast between the care available to asylum seekers and that available to Australian nationals.1,2 The reports also appear at odds with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s factsheet that states: “All detainees in immigration detention have access to health care at a standard generally comparable to the health care available to the Australian community”3 — though the use of “generally” allows for unqualified departure from the standard.

Australia’s low infant mortality rate (3.3/1000 births)4 is testament to high-quality specialist antenatal, perinatal and child health services. Yet on Christmas Island, where pregnant women are detained and for whom Australia has a duty of care, there is no sonographer. A pregnant woman who was denied an ultrasound and miscarried was apparently told: “They keep telling me that you are in detention centre and should not expect a lot”.1 This seems somewhat callous — since current policy…