Children with severe illnesses have been sent to Australia's offshore asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island, even though it lacks proper medical supplies.

John Valentine, a former doctor at the Papua New Guinea facility, has told ABC's Four Corners program there was an "appalling lack of medical supplies" at the centre during his time working there.

Dr Valentine said the facility was not an appropriate place to house children.

There are now 30 children in the Manus Island centre.

"The thing about children from a medical point of view is that they get sick very quickly," he told the program, which aired on Monday.

"We had very little in the way of paediatric equipment and facilities there."

He said there was a 24-hour delay between calling for a medical evacuation by air and the plane arriving.

"Getting the sick person out is just too long for kids."

Dr Valentine said among the first asylum seekers to be transferred to the centre were a severely anaphylactic young boy and a nine-year-old girl with anaemia with a reported history of blood transfusions.

"The little boy with anaphylaxis ... was sent over with a mass in his neck requiring investigation," he said.

"I mean, how can we investigate a mass in a neck? We don't even have x-rays let alone anything else."

The program also described cases of people harming themselves at the Manus centre, including a man who poured petrol over himself in an effort to commit suicide.

It also said the number of people harming themselves at Australia's processing centre on Nauru increased after former immigration minister Chris Bowen visited.

Mr Bowen explained to detainees that Nauru, which didn't have any laws for processing refugees, was still developing its system.

Meanwhile, the Four Corners report showed there were still differences between Australia and Nauru on the Australian government's "no advantage" policy.

The policy requires asylum seekers coming by boat to wait the same period to be resettled as other refugees coming through regular channels.

"The no advantage policy is an Australian government policy," Nauru's former foreign minister Kieren Keke told the ABC.

"I dont recall any discussions specifically about that approach with us, as a government."

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

 

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