Medevac’d refugee finally receives treatment after 870 days detained in hotels

Flickr/ Matt HrKac

Following advocacy by PIAC, a refugee with a painful health condition has finally received treatment after an almost three-year ordeal. Their case highlights the Government’s failure to provide essential healthcare for people in Australian immigration detention.

Zahid Hussain, who was held in the Australian immigration detention system for eight years after fleeing Pakistan, has a longstanding history of severe and painful gum disease, including diagnosis with gingival recession disorder as early as 2015.

He was transferred to Australia from Papua New Guinea under the Medevac laws for the express purpose of obtaining this treatment in 2019 and was detained in Hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne ever since, including 12 months at Park Hotel. During that time, he had dental examinations but no treatment and his condition worsened significantly.

In March 2022, after advocacy by PIAC, the Government finally agreed that they would fund Zahid’s treatment plan and an appointment with a periodontist specialist was booked for May 2022.

After being detained for 870 days without treatment, on 1 April 2022, Zahid was released from Park Hotel into the community on a bridging visa.

However, following Zahid’s release, funding for his treatment was suddenly withdrawn. The contracted healthcare provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), advised this was because he was no longer in detention.

After PIAC further advocacy on Zahid’s behalf, IHMS reversed its decision and Zahid was able to finally begin treatment on 22 May, around three years after his evacuation from Manus for medical reasons.

Zahid’s story is outlined on page 31 of Healthcare denied: Medevac and the long wait for essential medical treatment in Australian immigration detention released by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in December 2021. The report exposes the Commonwealth’s failure to provide basic medical care for people in Australian immigration detention facilities.

PIAC Asylum Seeker Rights lead, Lucy Geddes:

‘Zahid was detained for 870 days in Australia, including a year in Park Hotel, and during this time the Government failed to provide him with the urgent medical treatment that triggered his transfer to Australia.’

‘The Government has a duty of care to people it detains. The government failed to meet that duty here.’

‘To refuse to pay for this treatment, having failed to provide it for 870 days, because Zahid has now been released was extraordinary. We are very relieved that he is now receiving the urgent treatment which triggered his transfer to Australia – but it shouldn’t have had to come to this.’

‘Zahid’s experience is just one example of how the Government has routinely failed to provide adequate and timely medical treatment to people in immigration detention.’

Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce: 0478 739 280.

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