For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
Police have been forced to disperse crowds at a regional Victorian doctor’s surgery after hundreds are alleged to have gathered there in recent days to seek COVID-19 vaccination exemptions.
Regional Liberal MP Richard Riordan said he’d been inundated with calls from locals about the doctor, who was well known in the Colac community.
Video footage allegedly taken on Wednesday showed numerous cars parked along both sides of the country road while dozens of people lined up outside the clinic on foot.
Police are investigating whether anyone in attendance breached the Chief Health Officer’s coronavirus directions, including Melburnians who may have travelled outside their 15-kilometre limit to see the doctor.
“Police were called to a medical clinic on Woodrowvale Road, Elliminyt about 1.50pm on Wednesday. Police received reports of a large number of people gathering outside the clinic for vaccination exemptions,” they said.
“The crowd was dispersed without incident.”
Mr Riordan said he was triaging many calls and emails from rural business owners whose staff have walked off the job to protest mandatory vaccination in recent days and who were worried about finding enough staff to keep their businesses afloat.
Regional Liberal MP Richard Riordan says he has been inundated with calls from locals.Credit:Mark Witte
“There are people on the phone to me all the time crying, upset, overwhelmingly mums concerned about sons being sent home from work because they’re not vaccinated. It’s a really massive issue,” Mr Riordan said.
Calls to the doctor’s office went unanswered on Wednesday afternoon.
Across the Colac Otway Shire, the single-dose vaccination rate hit 92.5 per cent this week, while 63.9 per cent of people have had both doses.
A spokesman for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Medical Board of Australia said while they were limited in being able to disclose whether they were investigating a particular individual, their message was clear: that vaccination is a crucial part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Public protection is our number one priority. When providing care, advice or sharing information online, registered health practitioners have a professional obligation to provide information that is evidence-based, in line with the best available health advice, and is consistent with public health messaging,” he said.
“Advising against vaccination unless there are evidence-based medical reasons undermines the national immunisation campaign and is not supported by the board.”
The spokesman urged any practitioner being asked to supply exemption certificates to know and understand the advice provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
He said the consequences of providing an exemption when it was not warranted could be significant, including being barred from providing exemptions or managing patients in relation to COVID-19 matters. They could also have their registrations suspended.
“If a notification is made to us that a practitioner is providing exemptions in circumstances other than those described in the ATAGI advice, we will investigate.”
Authorities are also investigating allegations that invalid COVID-19 vaccination exemptions were handed out by a doctor in Melbourne’s west after crowds of people were seen arriving at their clinic in recent weeks.
A Victoria Police spokesman confirmed officers had visited that clinic last Friday following complaints from the public that alleged a doctor, who The Age has not named for legal reasons, was handing out vaccination exemption certificates without proper consultation.
A Department of Health spokesperson told The Age the regulation of general practitioners is a matter for the federal government, but it would always protect against fraudulent practice.
“The criteria for a COVID-19 vaccine exemption are strict and we expect clinicians to apply them accurately,” the spokesperson said.
Individuals with concerns about the behaviour of medical practitioners can contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on 1300 419 495.
Stay across the most crucial developments related to the pandemic with the Coronavirus Update. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article