A GP’s practice in the Victorian suburb of Sunshine North has been raided following a state health department probe into allegations a small number of doctors have been issuing certificates of exemption for COVID vaccines to individuals who do not meet the state-mandated criteria for such exemption.
The department of health confirmed that Dr Mark Hobart’s surgery in Melbourne’s west was raided on Wednesday afternoon over allegations that he gave fraudulent exemptions to patients or falsified whether an individual had received a vaccine. He has also been referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) over the claims.
“There is no privacy and confidentiality with medical files anymore,” Dr Hobart told a supporter who was filming the raid of his office on Thursday.
“The new laws have thrown this out the window.”
BREAKING: Authorised officers have invaded Dr Mark Hobart's medical practice. A Family doctor of 3 decades had his patients private medical files seized and a notice to cease operating for refusing to provide these medical records to the VIC Govt
— Constitutional Freedom 🇦🇺 (@section_117) November 10, 2021
Last month, Victoria’s government moved to introduce new pandemic laws that would shift central powers away from the public service, giving the premier power to declare a pandemic.
One of the main effects of the new laws will be to strip the chief health officer of the power to have a final say on health restrictions and give more power to elected representatives during pandemics. The proposed new scheme has been subject to criticism from all quarters, including members of the Victorian Bar, but also garnered enemies from within the Freedom Day protest movement. It was unclear if these were the laws Dr Hobart was referring to.
Doctors are allowed to issue patients with medical-exemption certificates on specific grounds, including evidence of a severe reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine (available to people who are allergic to polyethylene glycol, found in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and polysorbate 80, which is contained in the AstraZeneca shot) or an acute medical illness that prevents them from temporarily getting vaccinated.
In May, the Melbourne doctor published an open letter to Victoria’s chief medical officer, professor Brett Sutton, raising his ‘grave concerns for the increased risk of adverse events following vaccination of COVID-19 patients’.
In a rambling letter, Dr Hobart said that based on his own clinical experience, discussions with senior immunologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists, he wanted the government to mobilise to test for COVID antibodies among nursing home residents before they received a shot of the vaccine. He also called for these patients to be fully informed of any increased risks of severe adverse events should they be found to be positive.
The following month, in June, Hobart again came under scrutiny from medical authorities when he appeared as a guest on anti-vax conspiracy theory forums, airing his concerns about the safety of vaccines and agitating for a ‘public movement’. The doctor told The Herald Sun that he did not support vaccinating people against their will and used the example of the flu shot, which he said he had administered hundreds of over the years but that this was always the patient’s choice.
Dr Hobart clarified that his comments related to nurses being told they would not get shifts if they were not vaccinated — Australia does not have an explicit government policy of mandatory vaccination.
“I support the principle of people not having to be forced to have a medical treatment against their will,” Dr Hobart said.
According to The Age, a Google review for Dr Hobart’s clinic from a week ago recommends that he “hands out fake covid medical exemptions. If you need one see this guy.”
The Age also reported that a sign posted outside the closed doctor’s clinic read:
“The Victorian government has banned patients from entering this surgery because Dr Hobart refused to surrender your private and confidential patient files.”
The department of health issued a statement that while the regulation of GPs was a matter for federal authorities, “we will always protect Victorians and Victoria’s health system from fraudulent practice”.
“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,” a department spokesman said.