Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bills unpaid for sick detainees

A SMALL, remote West Australian hospital has been treating sick and suicidal asylum-seekers for the Immigration Department for 18 months without being paid.

Derby Hospital in the far north Kimberley is owed $268,000 for in-patient care of detainees from the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre, 50km away, including life-saving treatment for nine men rushed there after a hunger strike in January.

But the bill could be as high as $500,000, some Kimberley health workers told The Australian yesterday, because of the cost of attracting staff to such a remote location. The Australian understands the outstanding bill is due to a paperwork delay, though it was unclear which agency was responsible.

The hospital can't be paid until a memorandum of understanding is finalised between the Immigration Department and the state's country health service, a spokesman for the WA Country Health Service said last night.

Yesterday the Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed it was working towards reimbursing Western Australia's regional health service but refused to say how much was owed.

"The department is currently working with WA Health to finalise . . . reimbursement of costs for people in immigration detention," the spokeswoman said.

Derby, population 4500, is the closest town to the Curtin Immigration Detention Centre, which was reopened in April to accommodate a blowout in the number of detainees in immigration detention across the country. More than 1100 men are now detained there and their health is generally the responsibility of an on-site contractor, IHMS. But when they need to go to hospital they are most often taken by car to Derby.

The department confirmed it had made some payments to Country Health WA since Curtin reopened. But The Australian has been told the payments were for services other than in-patient care.

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