Over 1,000 Complaints Lodged Against Health Workers Contradicting Public COVID Advice

Over 1,000 Complaints Lodged Against Health Workers Contradicting Public COVID Advice
India Wells, RN and Emergency Department OPNUM, RN Danielle Callaghan and RN James Shattock consult about a patient transfer in the COVID-19 Red Zone at the St Vincent's Hospital Emergency Department in Sydney, Australia on Dec. 4, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Daniel Y. Teng

As of June 2022, Australian authorities received over 1,000 complaints against medical workers who may have contravened or criticised public health advice around COVID-19.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which manages accreditation for health professionals across the country, said it received around 10,800 notifications across the 2021-22 financial year period.

Of those, around 1,303 were matters related to COVID-19, according to a statement to The Epoch Times.

From that group, AHPRA imposed restrictions on the registrations of 28 health practitioners by “immediate action” due to conduct that was deemed to pose a “serious risk to the public or was otherwise not in the public interest.”

“Of the 28 practitioners, 21 practitioners were suspended. Of the 21 practitioners suspended in 2021-22, 12 were medical practitioners.”

A woman looks at a mural of a health worker with wings holding a globe on International Nurses Day in Melbourne on May 12, 2020. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman looks at a mural of a health worker with wings holding a globe on International Nurses Day in Melbourne on May 12, 2020. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

AHPRA works with 15 other bodies responsible for major professions such as nurses, paramedics, and doctors.

The group has imposed tight restrictions on what medical professionals can and cannot say about COVID-19 matters including the efficacy of vaccines, mask mandates, and lockdowns.

According to a March 9, 2021, position statement (pdf), health workers must not promote “anti-vaccination statements or health advice” that contradict the “best available scientific evidence.”

The statement has been criticised by human rights lawyer Peter Fam.

“The best available scientific evidence doesn’t exist. It’s always changing. That’s the nature of science and the nature of evidence,” he told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview.

The CEO of AHPRA, Martin Fletcher, has maintained that doctors were not being silenced.

“We’ve had concerns from patients about not being able to access care, because health practitioners have refused to treat them because of concerns about COVID-19,” he told the Community Affairs Legislation Committee during an Estimates hearing on Nov. 10.

“For example, refusals to wear masks, not complying with public health directions or lockdown requirements.

“We’ve had concerns about people practicing while they were unwell, and poor infection control, and we’ve also had concerns about the online conduct of health practitioners, for example, propagating what might be termed conspiracy theories.”

One example of AHPRA’s disciplinary action includes the suspension of anaesthetist Dr. Paul Oosterhuis in September 2021 after two “anonymous complaints” were lodged regarding his social media activity.

Oosterhuis, a medical practitioner of 30 years, revealed in an online petition that he had posted content regarding early treatments against COVID-19 while questioning the efficacy of lockdowns and PCR tests.

While in the same month, veteran paramedic John Larter was also suspended after filing a lawsuit against the New South Wales Health Department over vaccine mandates.

Rules Tightening Around Public Safety Issues

Meanwhile, new changes are pending for the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, which is partly administered by AHPRA.
The amendment which is working its way through the Queensland Parliament—and will be replicated across all states in Australia—will give regulators additional powers to respond to “risks to public safety” and to take action against people who contravene public protection laws, according to the Bill’s explanatory notes (pdf).

Further, employers will be compelled (by duty) to notify their relevant governing health body of any practitioner that has engaged in conduct deemed to “pose a risk to patients or the public” and if the individual has been penalised.

In response, the start-up union group, Red Union, said the “broad and discretionary nature” of terminology such as “public safety and confidence” was a tool being used to force health professionals to comply with government directives.

“The idea that non-compliance with government decrees poses an immediate risk to patient safety is dangerous to evidence-based patient care. We do not feel the explanatory notes provide any clarity regarding the risk-based approach to be used to interpret ‘public health, safety, and confidence,'” according to a submission (pdf) from the Australian Medical Professionals Society (AMPS) and the Nurses’ Professional Association.

“Further, AMPS cannot support the extension in law to publicly name and shame practitioners who ‘pose a risk to public safety’ without defining how risk is to be interpreted,” it continued, noting that health professionals could suffer financial and reputational damage as a result of scrutiny.