Medical response in Nauru to self-harm death of Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali on Nauru ‘inferior’

Queensland’s forensic scientists have found that the medical response in Nauru to an Iranian refugee who set himself on fire was “inferior” and “inadequate” due to limited skills, equipment and facilities, but his evacuation to Australia could not have happened faster.

In 2019, an investigation investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of Omid Masoumali, who died of organ failure at a Brisbane hospital two days after suffering significant burns.

The equal treatment heard that Mr Masoumali had been on the island for three years at the time of his death and had injured himself after he became angry and outraged over a quarrel his wife had with officials at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about life. conditions.

On Monday, forensic pathologist Terry Ryan said clinicians who initially treated him had been “heroic” and they did the “best they could” but did not have the skills to deal with such serious injuries.

“It was clear on the evidence that the clinicians at RNH [Republic of Nauru Hospital] did not have the necessary clinical skills, equipment or facilities to deal with Omid’s injuries, “he said.

Ryan also found, despite a 24-hour delay in evacuating him to Australia, that the authorities’ actions to provide the “most timely and medically competent service” were appropriate, given the airport’s airport restrictions and “contractual obligations”. at the local hospital. .

The court heard that Mr Masoumali and his partner had sought the help of a psychologist one day before the incident.

An experienced psychologist and two mental health nurses worked at the International Health and Medical Services Clinic in Nauru.

Ryan said the triage team’s decision to treat the request as “non-urgent” was an “inadequate response” and that there was a “missed opportunity” to intervene.

The supervisor later acknowledged that the situation on Nauru had changed in the five years since the incident, with 107 asylum seekers and refugees on the island now, compared to 1,178 in 2016.

He acknowledged that improvements had been made to health services, including education and resources.

Forensic scientists say refugees need a clearer resettlement schedule

The inspector, however, said the Australian authorities needed to work to give refugees a clearer timeline.

“I believe that there is a need to provide more security … to ensure that those who succeed in their asylum applications are resettled in third countries quickly and that refugees have some assurance that they will be obtained. ,” he said.

A framed door and a window.
Inside the Republic Nauru hospital where Omid Masoumali was taken after the incident.(Delivered: Coroners Court of Queensland)

“I recommend that the Commonwealth work with the Government of Nauru to achieve this result.

“This … is likely to see fewer requests for medical transfers from Nauru due to mental health.”

The coroner also expressed his condolences to Mr Masoumali’s partner and family.

“Unfortunately, Omid’s hope for a better life with his partner was never realized,” he said.

Omid started his journey in 2013 as an optimistic and perhaps naive 22-year-old.

“Over the course of three years, he died a painful death at a hospital in Brisbane after struggling to come to terms with the reality of an indefinite period on Nauru.”

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