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Australia: Manus Island refugee reported ‘shortness of breath, chest pains' before he died

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A coroner will examine whether medical care given to a refugee was adequate before and after he was injured on Manus Island and died in an Australian hospital on Christmas Eve in 2016.

Mr Faysal Ishak Ahmed reported shortness of breath and chest pains the day before he fell. © Supplied Mr Faysal Ishak Ahmed reported shortness of breath and chest pains the day before he fell.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 27, was a Sudanese refugee who had been detained at Manus Island Regional Processing Centre since October 2013.

On December 22, 2016, he was seen on CCTV footage falling down a set of stairs in a secure accommodation building. He appeared to lose consciousness just before he fell.

Mr Ahmed suffered serious head injuries. He was transferred to the island's medical centre where he was found to be severely ill with neurological impairment.

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The process to evacuate him to the mainland for specialist care began just after 11pm that night - an hour after he fell. Meanwhile, local medical staff tried to stabilise him.

Mr Ahmed was flown off Manus Island at 2.15pm on December 23 and arrived at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in the early hours of December 24.

RBWH staff found he had brain swelling, a probable bleed into the brain stem, severe neurological impairment, and evidence of multi-organ failure. He died just after 1pm on December 24, 2016.

During a pre-inquest hearing on Friday in Brisbane, Rhiannon Helsen, counsel assisting coroner Terry Ryan, told the court that the day before Mr Ahmed fell, he reported shortness of breath and chest pains.

"None of the clinical examinations, pathology studies or biochemistry studies had demonstrated any objective evidence of a physical cause of the symptoms," Ms Helsen said.

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"It was thought by staff, and agreed to by the senior medical officer, that Mr Ahmed's recent complaints were likely somatic in nature, or a manifestation of anxiety.

"When this was explained to him in detail by the senior medical officer, it is reported that he [Mr Ahmed] continued to argue with the view that he had a serious ailment."

Ms Helsen said an expert report on Mr Ahmed's medical care on Manus Island was sought from Dr Anthony Brown. The GP has raised some concerns, which will be explored at the inquest hearings.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed and his son, Mazim. © Supplied Faysal Ishak Ahmed and his son, Mazim.

In addition, questions were also raised over the frequency Mr Ahmed visited Manus Island medical staff, despite arriving at the island in good health.

"He made frequent presentations for various ailments to health professionals between 2014 and his death, sometimes on more than one occasion each day," Ms Helsen said.

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"His complaints ranged from gastric symptoms, kidney pain, chronic sinusitis, mental health issues and chest pain, to name a few."

Ms Helsen said the coronial inquest would examine the adequacy of medical care given to Mr Ahmed on Manus Island in general, and immediately after his fall until he was evacuated.

It would also look at the appropriateness of procedures in place on Manus Island in December 2016 for medical evacuations and whether there was an avoidable delay in Mr Ahmed's evacuation.

The steps taken by International Health and Medical Services - responsible for the island's medical services until 2018 - and the Department of Home Affairs to prevent a similar death would also be examined.

A date for the inquest hearings into Mr Ahmed's death could not be set because records and statements sought from IHMS, DHA, Wilson Security and the RBWH, remained outstanding.

Queensland state coroner Terry Ryan adjourned the matter to May 18 for another pre-inquest hearing, but said he hoped to hold hearings in July or August this year.

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