The Covid-19 response minister denounced anti-vax general practitioners, but said it is up to the Medical Council to take care of them.
Chris Hipkins’ statements come after RNZ revealed that two Northland GP clinics do not support vaccinations.
The region has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and a weakly positive test result has since come back positive after further investigation.
One of Northland’s anti-vax GPs posted a 20-minute video online about his beliefs four months ago, but he is still practicing and his Medical Council registration remains intact for now.
Hipkins was asked today if he was comfortable with this.
“This is ultimately a question for the Medical Council,” he said.
“But yes, I would expect medical professionals to adhere to the very high standards they set for themselves as a profession, and that kind of behavior would not meet the standards.”
When asked if the medical board should take a stronger position, the director of public health, Dr Caroline McElnay, said the board has “strong processes that it follows in order to assess situations” .
Earlier, the president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Samantha Murton, said Morning report [https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018815406/covid-19-what-happens-to-doctors-spreading-misinformation she was aware of the GPs’ video] and complaints had been lodged with the Medical Council.
But like other anti-vaccine GPs, she wasn’t sure how many there were and what the medical practitioner’s board and disciplinary tribunal were doing in response.
Dr Murton said the complaints process was “very robust” and “thorough”.
“As members of all medical services across the country, we trust the Medical Council because we know they are doing the job right when someone is mentioned to them.”
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science group is calling on people to share their anti-vax petition, claiming it has nearly 35,000 signatures.
The petition was pushed by a few dozen doctors across the country, including Dr Damian Wojcik, anti-vaccination GP from Whangārei, the man from Northland Environmental Health who gave the video speech, and Dr Rupert Scott who runs Horizon. Health.
Neither practice would comment to RNZ.
Right across the parking lot from Dr Scott’s office is Rata Family Health, a general practitioner practice that offers vaccinations.
There, Dr Paula Mathieson was visibly upset when she spoke to RNZ about vaccination rates in Te Tai Tokerau.
“I am terrified of the consequences of the low vaccination rates in our city, their impact on general medicine. I am working at full capacity… And the thought of being inundated with overtime fills me with dread.”
She was more worried about those who cannot get the vaccine or choose not to.
“I mourn the patients I risk losing. I mourn the people who will be really, really sick and will not be able to care for their loved ones… I mourn the potential harm my patients will suffer and it really hurts.”
Whangārei resident Sue Magee said opposition to the vaccine had been a challenge within her own family, but she was still hopeful her relatives’ attitudes would change.
“I keep telling them, every week, go get your shot.”
And Bill Magee, 88, had a message for anyone who hesitated.
“They don’t put these things out for a joke, it’s to save lives, that’s the main thing. And everyone in New Zealand, even if it’s kids who say only 10 or 12, inject themselves and don’t care. “