Monday, March 18, 2013

New breath of life for health body

The new health advisory body established to provide independent advice on the health needs of asylum seekers has officially begun operations.

   The Immigration Health Advisory Group (IHAG) members, led by former Defence Force medical officer Dr Paul Alexander, include medical professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists and GPs, as well as advocates and officials.

   A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said IHAG would have a broader scope than the former Detention Health Advisory Group (DeHAG) which had been “instrumental in facilitating improvements in health care for people in detention"

“Since DeHAG’s establishment, there have been significant changes in the size, nature and complexity of the immigration detention and status resolution environment, including expanded use of community detention and the use of bridging visas for clients who formerly would have been in immigration detention,” the spokesman said.

   “This has meant that the type of health services provided, and the way in which services are used by clients, have also significantly changed.”

   He said the new group would not only advise on the needs of people in detention but also on the health of asylum seekers in the community, as well as recent humanitarian visa holders.

   “The expanded capacity of the group includes the design, development, implementation and evaluation of health and mental health policies and services for asylum seekers, refugees or recently granted permanent visa holders receiving support through the department’s assistance programs,” he said. 

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