Public Health Practice in Australia: The Organised Effort

By Vivian Lin; James Smith et al. | Go to book overview

9

Legislative authority for public health
action: How governments and societal
expectations intersect

Challenge

A chest X-ray of a young Chinese man, on a student visa in Australia, revealed he had TB. Treatment of the TB was commenced but it was later determined he had a multiresistant strain of TB and he was admitted to hospital. After six weeks in hospital he was discharged and treatment continued on an outpatient basis. However, the young man started to neglect the treatment regime and he couldn't be located easily as he did not have a permanent address.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) was notified and they put a trace on his mobile phone. A public health order was also issued by the public health authority and, when he was eventually located, the order was served by the Medical Officer of Health using a telephone interpreter service. The young man was confined to a locked hospital room with a 24-hour security guard. He refused to eat and was losing weight but it was decided that he would need a total of eighteen months of therapy. Meanwhile, DIMIA officers reported that there were improprieties with his visa application and the suggestion was made that he be placed in custody at Villawood Detention Centre. Not long after, the young man escaped from hospital and could not been found (Senanayake & Ferson 2004:573–6).

You have just been appointed the new Director of Public Health and the minister has requested your advice on the key issues and your recommendations. What advice would you give the minister?

-185-

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