Conceded his department gave him the wrong information and the team had not yet hired a full-time psychiatrist: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Three months after the deadly violence on Manus Island there is still not a full-time psychiatrist on Manus Island's detention centre, despite Immigration Minister Scott Morrison assuring human rights organisations there was.
Amnesty International raised concerns with the immigration department after witnessing shocking living conditions on the island, following a tour of the centre in March. They also questioned whether a full-time psychiatrist was present in the centre.
This is a population characterised by ... mental health impairment.
In an email obtained by Fairfax Media, Mr Morrison wrote to Amnesty International on April 28 saying: ''The IHMS [International Health Medical Services] on-site team includes general practitioners, nurses, paramedics, mental health nurses, psychologists, counsellors and a full-time psychiatrist.''
Mr Morrison has conceded his department gave him the wrong information and the team had not yet hired a full-time psychiatrist.
''The minister was wrongly advised by his department on this matter,'' a spokesman for Mr Morrison said.
''The minister is advised that in January this year, IHMS identified the need for a full-time psychiatrist service at the Manus Offshore Processing Centre. The department supported the proposal and requested IHMS commence recruitment of suitable staff to provide these services.''
Yet three months after the violence that killed asylum seeker Reza Barati, there is still not a full-time psychiatrist on the island, a spokesman for Mr Morrison confirmed. ''The planned deployments were disrupted by the events of February 2014. The minister is advised IHMS is undertaking recruitment now to have the full-time coverage back in place.''
The government maintains there has been a ''provision of psychiatric services'' available since the violence in February. But mental health advocates are appalled, saying Mr Morrison has neglected his duty of care.
''This is highly irresponsible,'' said the chair of trauma and mental health at the University of NSW, associate Professor Zachary Steel.
''The international research and our own research suggest that this is a population characterised by extremely high levels of mental health impairment and so therefore, there is a very high need for mental health services and that represents a provision of a basic human right.''
Psychologists and psychiatrists agree that the harsh environment of detention centres is fostering mental illness in the most severe forms.
''It's an incredible situation where a detention facility is set up, where it is recognised that people will become so mentally disturbed and distressed that we actually need a resident psychiatrist,'' said Professor Louise Newman, Professor of Developmental Psychiatry and Director at Monash University.
Labor's spokesman on immigration, Richard Marles, said: ''We would have serious concerns if this government is neglecting that core area of responsibility. We believe it is a fundamental duty of care to make sure asylum seekers are treated in a dignified manner and afforded mental health assistance.''
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