Former Liberal Leader John Hewson has accused Immigration Minister Scott Morrison of arrogance and condemned as inhumane his decision to limit an asylum seeker’s access to her sick baby.
Latifa, a Rohingyan woman from Myanmar, gave birth in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital last week but was returned to a Brisbane detention centre while her baby remained in the neonatal intensive care unit.
For several days the Immigration Department only allowed Latifa to visit her baby at the hospital between 10:00am and 4:00pm.
On Sky News, Dr Hewson accused Mr Morrison of arrogance, saying his treatment of the woman was ridiculous.
“It’s inhumanity in the extreme in my view, I mean a mother in these circumstances is normally given 24-hour access to a child in intensive care,” Dr Hewson said.
“I mean for heaven’s sake, you know Morrison can go make all the short-term points he likes out there but this is something I think that sends absolutely the wrong message.”
The baby was discharged from hospital yesterday.
A spokesman for Mr Morrison yesterday said doctors at the hospital had advised that it is common for mothers not to stay overnight because of bed restrictions.
But in a statement to ABC’s AM program, the Mater Hospital suggested the mother should have been allowed to visit her child whenever she wanted.
The hospital says it encourages new mothers to be involved in the baby’s care wherever possible to help establish a strong bond, and does not place restrictions on visiting hours.
“Once a mum is clinically well enough to go home, she is discharged from hospital, but is encouraged to be involved in her baby’s care wherever possible to help establish and strengthen her bond with her baby,” the statement said.
“Mater places no restrictions on women and they can visit their baby anytime where possible.”
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce executive officer Misha Coleman says Latifa should have been shown more compassion.
“Of course all of us who’ve had babies know that if they are in intensive care or special care, you can’t necessarily sleep by the cot all night, but you can certainly be down the hallway or on the next floor,” she said.
“So that when the baby needs to have milk [or] be fed, the mother can be called and is very, very close at hand.”