The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has tried to derail legal proceedings to prevent it transporting a critically ill asylum-seeker child from Darwin to Sydney against her doctors’ wishes, the Federal Court has heard on Friday.
On Wednesday, two Northern Territory doctors were granted a temporary injunction by the Court to prevent DIAC from moving the two-year-old, who has chronic heart disease and Down syndrome.
But she had already been flown out on Wednesday morning before the order was made, a day after her paediatrician expressed concerns about her health, the court has heard.
“We wanted to find her and make sure the parents understood the seriousness of the illness, but we didn’t know where she was,” Dr Paul Bauert, director of paediatrics at Royal Darwin Hospital told AAP.
“We didn’t know she’d gone to Sydney. That just highlights the poor communication we have.”
Dr Bauert says Darwin doctors are frustrated by DIAC’s repeated transfer of asylum-seeker patients to other parts of the country without proper care plans and handovers in place.
DIAC issued the girl and her family bridging visas on Wednesday morning before flying her to Sydney, where a spokesman said the family had wanted to go.
But the doctors’ barrister Simon Lee said DIAC was attempting to derail legal proceedings by granting the visas.
“It seems bizarre that if a paediatric cardio specialist from Darwin is indicating he has concerns about this young child, the very next morning (she) is granted a visa and transported out,” he said.
“It all happened very quickly.”
Ms Angela Hanson, representing DIAC, said she didn’t know whether the family was aware of the doctor’s concerns before they left, and said DIAC wasn’t aware an injunction was being sought until after it was granted.
Mr Lee said DIAC would not give him her parents’ names, which Ms Hanson said could not be given out to lawyers “as a matter of privacy”.
The girl’s treating doctor was instructed to send his letters to a department PO Box rather than an office address, which Justice John Mansfield said “seems a bit cagey”.
“It’s not through lack of trying,” Dr Bauert said of the breakdown in communication.
“The Australian Medical Association have been in meetings with DIAC trying to get this sorted out for the last three years, and still there’s multiple kids falling through the cracks like this one.”
The hearing has been adjourned until Wednesday.