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Concerns for pregnant asylum seeker

Friday 6 November 2015 | Published in Regional


YAREN – Doctors hold serious concerns about the health of a diabetic Kurdish asylum seeker on Nauru, who is 40 weeks pregnant and facing a difficult birth.

One neonatal specialist was approached on social media to go to Nauru to treat the woman, but refused on the grounds that the island lacks the necessary medical facilities for her to be treated properly.

He says she should instead be sent to Australia for treatment.

The 34-year-old pregnant Kurdish-Iraqi woman does not want her name published and will not speak to the media, but her husband Rashid speaks on her behalf.

He told the ABC the past nine months had been very hard on his wife.

“My wife now has pain around her back and her stomach. She’s waiting. She waits. The system is really terrible,” Rashid said.

Her pregnancy has been plagued by problems and the situation has not been helped by the lack of consistent medical advice the couple has received.

“They checked her stomach three times recently,” Rashid said. “They are really different in what they tell us. They can’t make a decision about her birthing. Someone says your wife’s birth is natural, and someone else says maybe she should get a caesarean.”

The woman suffers from diabetes, and Rashid fears for her health, and that of his unborn child.

Medical experts say Nauru lacks the medical facilities needed to treat a difficult pregnancy, and it appears that moves have been made to bring in outside help.

Neonatal specialist Dr Andrew Watkins told the ABC he was asked to go to Nauru to treat the woman at short notice – but he refused to go on the grounds that the island lacks the necessary medical facilities for her to be treated properly.

Dr Watkins, based in Melbourne, said the recruiter was Aspen Medical and that the approach was made via his page on social media site LinkedIn.

“They anticipate the delivery of a baby on Nauru. They want a neonatologist to be available from the 6th of November, today, for a week to look after the baby,” he said.

Dr Watkins said it was normal procedure for specialists to be approached via social media, and he was not told specifically who he would be treating.

He turned down the request as he felt the pregnant woman should be transferred to Australia.

“My response was that, given the request had come on the 5th and that no neonatologists could be there until at least the 6th and be ready to act until sometime later, probably that they had ample time to move this mother and baby to Australia, given the safest form of transport for babies is in-utero, not ex-utero, and that if the baby needed intensive care it could not be safely provided on Nauru,” he said.

Dr Watkins said it was outrageous the woman has not been flown to Australia.

“Presumably this has been predictable for some time,” he said.

“Pregnant women can fly with appropriate supervision. It’s probably safer than transferring a sick baby,” he said.

Refugee advocates say there are three other pregnant asylum seekers who are close to full-term on Nauru.

The ABC contacted Aspen Medical, who referred any inquiries about Nauru onto the Immigration Department.