MP stands by call to send kidney transplant deportee home

Fijian kidney patient Sanil Kumar. Photo / Richard Robinson
Fijian kidney patient Sanil Kumar. Photo / Richard Robinson

Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye says she was advised that treatment was available in Fiji for a man deported from New Zealand while waiting for a kidney transplant.

Family members told Labour MP Rajen Prasad today that Sanil Kumar died in hospital in Fiji this morning after developing an infection a week ago.

Ms Kaye said she was saddened to hear of Mr Kumar's death, and extended her condolences to family and friends.

Mr Kumar was sent home from New Zealand on April 24 after his work visa was not renewed, and Ms Kaye declined to intervene in the case.

She said she was advised by the Ministry of Health that appropriate dialysis treatment was available in Fiji.

"I am limited in what I can say further publicly on Mr Kumar's case, as Mr Kumar declined to give me a privacy waiver to discuss the specific details of his case.

" I have previously confirmed that I wrote to Dr Prasad earlier this year to confirm some material facts including information about the availability of dialysis treatment in Fiji, and the actual costs to the taxpayer of all treatment for Mr Kumar."

Ms Kaye said immigration decisions involving health conditions were complex and involved consideration of a range of factors.

"That's why I give careful and thorough consideration to a range of factors and often seek additional advice as I did from health agencies in this instance."

Mr Kumar's family had raised about $122,000 of the $130,000 needed for a transplant, and a cousin was being tested as a possible match, Dr Prasad said.

Transplant operations cannot be done in Fiji.

Dr Prasad said Ms Kaye had written to David Cunliffe to respond to queries about the case. Her letter said she had been advised that dialysis was available in Fiji, and that patients could transfer from peritoneal dialysis, which Mr Kumar had been receiving, to haemodialysis, which was available in Fiji.

The letter also pointed out that Mr Kumar had an outstanding debt to the district health board of $36,000.

Mr Prasad said family members had made arrangements to pay off that debt.

He said the Health Ministry's advice to Ms Kaye, which was included in her letter to Mr Cunliffe, was that Fiji would only fund three months of dialysis treatment.

After that time, patients needed to pay the $32,000 annual cost, find a donor and travel to India for a transplant, or "get their affairs in order to prepare for their death".

Dr Prasad said New Zealand Immigration had been "utterly heartless".

"What was the harm here? I just don't get it. It's just so unnecessary."

Prime Minister John Key said today he was constrained in comments because of privacy, but that Ms Kaye had established that treatment was available in Fiji.

"I'm sure they would be of the view that the potential level of health care was greater for him in New Zealand. Whether that is right or not is not something I can confirm."

- APNZ

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