Phelps tells The Saturday Paper her bill is based on long-established procedure in remote medicine, as practised, for example, by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“A doctor in a remote location is doing their best to look after patients with their available resources,” she says.” If there comes a point where they can’t, they contact someone else, usually a specialist.”
Depending on the advice that comes back, they might either continue to treat the patient in situ or, if recommended, medically evacuate the patient for more intensive care.
But, given the unique sensitivities of the asylum seeker situation, there would be safeguards in the new process. The proposed legislation includes a specific power for the minister to refuse a transfer on national security grounds. It also includes a provision allowing the minister to override a transfer recommendation by those initial treating doctors.
Says Phelps: “If the minister thinks it’s just a couple of activist doctors trying to game the system, then it goes to a separate, expert medical panel comprising the Commonwealth chief medical officer and nominees of the AMA and the [relevant medical] colleges, and then within 24 hours, they would give advice to the minister on whether or not the transfer should proceed.”