Home | News | Nursing union backs Brisbane hospital’s refusal to discharge baby Asha

Nursing union backs Brisbane hospital’s refusal to discharge baby Asha

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has declared its support for the medical professionals at the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane who are refusing to discharge a baby for fear it will be returned to an asylum seeker facility in Nauru.

Although Asha, as the baby girl is known, was reportedly born in Australia 12 months ago, she and her parents were transported to Nauru in mid-2015. After suffering burns on the Pacific Island, Asha was transported to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital for treatment.


As treatment of Asha continued, the question soon turned to where she would be taken to upon discharge from hospital. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked about this at a press conference.

“No decisions would be taken which would imperil the health or security of any individual," the Prime Minister said. "We’re managing this policy with great care and with great compassion, and at the same time doing everything we can to ensure that we do not do anything or say anything which will be used by the people smugglers to get more vulnerable people onto those boats.”

In a statement to the media this morning, the ANMF made it clear that it supports staff at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital temporising Asha's discharge if she is to be returned to Nauru.

“As a father and a grandfather, Mr Turnbull must surely realise that Nauru is not a safe environment for a sick baby,” ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said. “That’s why he cannot stand back and allow authorities to put Asha’s health at risk by removing her from the safety of hospital care and sending her back to the horrific conditions asylum seekers are experiencing in detention.

“As an advanced and civil society, Australia has a moral and legal obligation to treat every human being compassionately and with respect, courtesy and consideration."

This view is shared by respected 193-year-old medical journal The Lancet, which opined in an editorial under the headline "Australia’s immigration centres are no place for children" that: "serious health and human rights issues have been reported in some detention centres, including sexual and physical assaults of adults and children, rape, and self-harm," and that "concerns have been raised about children in these facilities".

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has not been drawn publicly thus far on the case. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is another voice arguing on behalf of Asha and her family.

"My government stands absolutely ready to look after the people who are due to be sent back to Nauru...I call on the prime minister to show some humanity," she said.

Queensland opposition leader Lawrence Springborg has been one of the more strident advocates for discharging. "Once a patient is right to be discharged, they should be discharged and cared for in accordance with Australian and international law," he said.

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