A doctor’s office in the state of Victoria has been raided by the Department of Health (DOH) officials over allegations the practice provided vaccine exemptions without valid reasoning.
At least four personnel from the DOH seized confidential patient records in the North Sunshine medical practice on Nov. 10.
A DOH spokesman said allegations regarding the medical practice had been reported to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
“While the regulation of general practitioners is a matter for federal authorities, we will always protect Victorians and Victoria’s health system from fraudulent practice,” he told The Age.
“We’re investigating reports of a small number of GPs issuing false vaccination certificates and exemptions, and we’re working together with relevant enforcement agencies to ensure swift action is taken.”
The practice’s doctor, Dr Mark Hobart, said it was an “intimidating” experience as at least four DOH officers seized confidential patient records along with an appointment book on Nov. 10.
Signage posted on the windows of the clinic stated it had been forced to stop accepting new patients.
“The Victorian government has banned patients from entering this surgery because Dr Hobart refused to surrender your private and confidential patient files,” the sign stated.
In particular, Hobart, who has served the area for over 35 years, raised concerns he believed the state no longer respected patient confidentiality.
“People thought that they had privacy and confidentiality with their medical files. This is not true. There is no privacy and confidentiality with medical files anymore; the new laws have thrown this out the window,” Hobart told independent journalists.
One of these laws refers to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 in Victoria, which in section 175 states that authorised officers may “seize anything (including a document) at the premises” if authorised officers believe on reasonable grounds that the seizure will determine contraventions to the act or other regulations.
Hobart has previously defied the AHPRA protocol after suggesting in a letter addressed to the Victorian chief health officer that vaccine recipients should first seek COVID-19 antibody testing before getting the jab.
He said he based his argument on published research that found recipients of vaccines had an increased chance of severe side effects if previously infected with COVID-19.
This violates requirements under AHPRA guidelines (pdf) which states that medical practitioners should not share information that contradicts the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“Any promotion of anti-vaccination statements or health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence or seeks to actively undermine the national immunisation campaign (including via social media) is not supported by National Boards and may be in breach of the codes of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action,” AHPRA states.
Additionally, Hobart had also said he supported using the anti-parasite pharmaceutical Ivermectin as a treatment against COVID-19, which has not been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use against COVID-19.
However, it has been utilised internationally.
Currently, the TGA restricts the prescription of Ivermectin in Australia to the TGA-approved conditions of scabies and certain parasitic infections.
Infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists (liver disease specialists) are also permitted to prescribe Ivermectin for other unapproved indications if they believe it is appropriate for a patient.
These changes have been introduced after concerns over the prescribing of oral Ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
This comes after the medicine’s use by the general public for COVID-19 has been currently strongly discouraged by the National COVID Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.
Around 50,000 Australians had previously signed a petition calling on the federal government to strip AHPRA of the power to silence health practitioners from criticising the efficacy of the vaccines and vaccine mandates.
Following the seizure of documents at his practice, Hobart also raised the concern that the media coverage would include false portrayals of the doctor, who bystanders heralded for his service to the community.
“If [the media] do come, I think they’ll twist it and make it look like [I’m] some crazy anti-vaxxer or something.”