The chief doctor at an Australian offshore detention centre was removed Wednesday for “breaching rules”, her employer said, as Canberra sought to stem criticism of conditions at a deeply controversial immigration camp on Nauru.
It also comes after Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) – also known as Doctors Without Borders – was ordered by Nauru to cease its mental health treatment earlier this month as the charity warned of a health crisis among child refugees held there.
The circumstances surrounding the doctor’s removal and deportation were unclear but national broadcaster ABC reported Narau may have suspected her of trying to alert media about the health of her patients.
Naming the doctor as Nicole Montana, ABC said she was arrested by Nauru police late Tuesday after taking a photo of a child she was treating, a breach of rules at the camp.
International Health and Medical Services, the company that employed the doctor, confirmed to AFP she was “stood down for a breach of Regional Processing Centre rules” but did not elaborate on what the transgression was.
Australia sends asylum-seekers who try to reach the country by boat to remote Pacific facilities such as on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, although the latter camp was shuttered late last year after a local court ruling.
But the conditions in the camps have been slammed by rights groups amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods.
The plight of children in the centre came into sharp focus when Nauru kicked out MSF.
The charity said many children were suffering “traumatic withdrawal syndrome” and were unable to eat, drink or talk.
MSF says there are nearly 900 asylum-seekers in Nauru, including 115 children. They have all been on the island for more than five years.
The Australian government refused to weigh in on Montana’s sacking, saying it was “a matter for the government of Nauru” and her employer.
“A replacement senior medical officer is in Nauru. There has been no impact to the continuity of care for transferees,” an unnamed Department of Home Affairs spokesman said in a written statement.