Doctors seeing migrants in 'unacceptable conditions' - 12/3/2005

Doctors seeing migrants in 'unacceptable conditions'
Cynthia Busuttil

link to The Times article

Irregular immigrants are being given medical attention in conditions which a health centre doctor has described as "certainly not acceptable".

The doctor, who did not wish to be named, said in some cases a patient was visited by a doctor with other immigrants present in the room and the women especially did not like being examined in front of other people.

He said the conditions at the migrant detention centres would definitely be deemed unacceptable if they were being used by Maltese people. Irregular immigrants did not deserve to be seen in conditions that were unacceptable to others, he added.

"We cannot see them comfortably. There is already a communication problem and the conditions are not helping at all," he said.

The doctor explained that although one hut at the Safi barracks had been turned into a makeshift clinic it did not even include a couch. Sometimes the doctor was expected to see the patients in their own quarters, which both breached the patient's privacy and was unsafe for the doctor.

Doctors did not believe it was safe to be in a room with a large number of irregular immigrants, he said.

He said although the health centre doctors understood there were certain difficulties, it was imperative to rectify the situation.

The secretary general of the Medical Association of Malta, Martin Balzan, told The Times the association is pushing for a fully equipped clinic to be set up at both the police depot in Floriana and the Safi barracks.

"Patients deserve an element of decency and the concept of privacy needs to be kept at all times. You cannot have pregnant women seen by a doctor in the presence of other immigrants."

Dr Balzan said both detention centres needed a clinic, which apart from respecting all the rules of hygiene, would include at least a couch, blood pressure equipment and disposables.

The association had held a meeting with the Health Department but nothing had been done about the matter as yet. He said that unless the situation was rectified, the doctors would be forced not to visit the patients at the detention centres but would insist that the irregular immigrants be brought to health centres.

"We are not saying we do not want to see them but the conditions need to be appropriate," he said.

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