Fears Manus health services will struggle to cope with hundreds of refugees


As refugees move into what may be a third week without water or power in the detention centre, the focus now turns on the capacity of the local hospital to provide medical attention.

Authorities in Papua New Guinea fear already over-stretched health services on Manus island will not cope with hundreds of refugees.

Every bed is full in the Manus general hospital where the hundreds of refugees are expected to go for medical care once they're all out of Australia’s former detention centre. 

About 400 men still remain inside refusing to leave more than two weeks after power, water and food were stopped, and Australia handed control over the PNG.

“They just check what you have for sickness and then they say they will write some prescription and you go to the public hospital,” said Tamil refugee Nagaraj Govindaraj on Manus.

He moved from the decommissioned off-shore processing centre before it shut down to the transit accommodation as authorities asked.

Mr Govindaraj has mental health issues and feels abandoned.

The refugees were promised an allowance of about 100 kina (A$40) a week if they moved.

“After the camp closed they didn't give any medicines,” Mr Govindaraj told SBS News.

“I come here three weeks ago, I haven't received any money. I feel sick. If I need any medicine and I want to go public hospital, if they are out of medicine, I don't have any option to buy.”

The dispensary only carries the basics and is often out of stock and the only pharmacy in Lorengau town is expensive.

The main hospital on Manus island, built and not upgraded since the 1970s, is also the only one, and is already at double capacity.

The two adult wards were designed for 10 people each, but currently hold 36 patients - and sometimes more. There is no mental health clinic.

Hospital sources said six doctors and one psychiatric nurse work on Manus serving a population of about 50,000 people. 

“Already we lose six people here [on Manus], we don't want to lose any more so the 420 people at Lombrum [former detention centre] work hard too help us,” said Mr Govindaraj in support of the continuing stand-off.

PNG's top military, police, immigration and health officials says they are concerned about an impending public health emergency at the former detention centre.

“We are implementing the provisional health authority inspection report that says the centre is unhygienic and is subject to illness such as waterborne diseases typhoid cholera and dysentery,” said Manus Provincial Police Commander David Yapu.

Those who have relocated to the new West Lorengau transit accommodation say they are living in filth.

About 400 men remain in the former detention centre and refuse to leave more than two weeks after power, water and food were stopped.
About 400 men remain in the former detention centre and refuse to leave more than two weeks after power, water and food were stopped.
SBS World News

Australia’s prime minister described the three transit centres in Lorengau on Tuesday as “very adequate alternative facilities”.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden has again offered to resettle 150 refugees saying “out offer remains on the table, it remains on the table because the need remains”.

Australia's handling of the process has been heavily criticised by the UN.

Ms Ardern's is also now offering up to $3 million in aid to help care for those on Manus Island before they are resettled.

“We intend to work with PNG and other agencies like the International Red Cross to financially support them with any additional needs that may need to be met, while those refugees remain on the island,” she said.

Ms Ardern continues to reject calls to deal directly with PNG, insisting any resettlement to New Zealand will involve Australia.

“They hold the information, they are the ones who are presiding over the process,” she said.






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