GPs in Queensland are calling for calm after a doctor was allegedly assaulted for refusing to grant a patient a COVID-19 vaccination exemption.
- The alleged assault comes as medical clinics move to better protect staff
- GPs say the guidelines for who is eligible for an exemption are clear
- A doctor who has made changes at his clinic says the vast majority of people are grateful to healthcare professionals
Police were called to the Sonic HealthPlus Medical Center in Moranbah on November 19th.
“It will be alleged that a 48-year-old attended the premises and became involved in a verbal altercation with a 39-year-old male doctor in connection with a private medical matter,” a police spokesman said.
“The 48-year-old Moranbah man was arrested and charged with assault that caused bodily harm in a public place while being adversely affected by an intoxicating substance and public nuisance.”
The man is due to appear in Moranbah Magistrates Court on December 9.
ABC understands that the doctor who was assaulted was a general practitioner who refused to grant the man a COVID-19 vaccination exemption.
Nicole Higgins, who owns and operates Health on Central in Mackay, says she has made changes to how her practice runs due to the amount of abuse her staff has received.
“We have had emails, we have received letters that have been sent in, which have been threatening,” she said.
“As a business owner, I need to make sure my doctors and staff are sure they are able to walk to their parking lots at night.
Dr. Higgins said the practice noted details of threatening phone calls and reported them to police.
“We have so many exhausted people in primary care, in general practitioners and hospitals [across Australia], who really do the best they can to take care of people, “she said.
“And it’s pretty demoralizing, but we have to remember that it’s only a very small part of our community, and everyone else is incredibly grateful and grateful for the work that health professionals do.”
‘Threatened, sad and scared’
Townsville-based Michael Clements, the Northern District representative on the AMA Queensland Council, said doctors understood that emotions were strong among certain groups of people.
“They feel threatened, outraged and afraid of mandatory vaccination rules affecting their lives and livelihoods,” he said.
“But unfortunately … this fear and anxiety, and sometimes anger, actually unfolds in the consultation room with doctors.
Dr. Clements said patients with a “depth of feeling and fear” turned it into “intimidation” and put pressure on clinicians to get what they wanted.
“We have very clear guidelines for GPs on when we can write things like vaccine exemptions and things like mask exemptions,” he said.
“When physicians act outside of these guidelines, physicians themselves may be subject to action from [the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency]. “
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) says temporary exemptions of up to six months can be given to people with an active COVID-19 infection or to people with inflammatory heart disease.
“No one needs to be threatened or afraid to follow what are very clear scientific principles and guidelines from the state and federal governments and all health professionals,” said Dr. Clements.
Sonic HealthPlus has been contacted for comment.
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