Caring for asylum seekers within a Australian paediatric burn centre

Dr Jessica Maskell1, Ms Sabrina Haider2, Professor Roy Kimble3

1 Social Work Department, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital & Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, Centre for Children’s Health Research, UQ, South Brisbane, 4101,
2 Social Work Department, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital 4101,
3 Pegg Leditschke Paediatric Burn Centre, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital & Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, Centre for Children’s Health Research, UQ South Brisbane, QLD, 4101,

With the current Australian policy of retaining refugees seeking asylum in off shore detention centres medical facilities including the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH) have provided inpatient care to children in detention and their families. Providing care to these children and their families is complex and requires expert knowledge and practice to not only provide medical care but also navigating the ethical and legal complexities of such cases.

The presentation will focus on a case study of a one year old girl transferred to LCCH for burn care after sustaining a scald burn whilst in detention on Nauru. The presentation will outline the challenges for the burn team in:

  • Providing comprehensive care including medical, psychosocial and psychological care for both the child and her family
  • Conducting a thorough ethical review particularly drawing comparisons of standard care provided to Australian children presenting with similar burn mechanisms and psychosocial concerns including housing, safety and wellbeing.
  • Managing the ethical and legal implications for health care professionals to their patients as well as their responsibilities as government employees

Caring for refugees is no longer an unusual occurrence in Australian hospitals as the refugee crisis grows. Health care professionals will continue to face significant ethical and legal dilemmas in caring for these patients, hence, it is important to share these case studies as a way of providing support and education to the burn care community and advocating for equality of health care, safety and well-being for all children.

Key Words

Asylum seekers, ethical dilemma, psychosocial care, children


Dr Maskell has worked clinically in the field of paediatric burns and trauma for over 10 years.  Dr Maskell is also an accomplished researcher with a number of peer reviewed articles and conference presentations. Her present research program focusses on the psychosocial aspects including health-related quality of life and living with altered appearances for children and young people, particularly those with burns and trauma related injuries as well as the long term psychological trauma and psychosocial risk factors for burn survivors and the development and testing of psychosocial interventions for this population.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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