AMA 'disappointed' by GPs' decision to withdraw services from Mid West aged care homes over compulsory vaccinations

Nazareth Care says one of its GPs will no longer visit its Geraldton facility because COVID vaccinations are compulsory.  (ABC Mid West and Wheatbelt: Cecile O'Connor)

The head of the Australian Medical Association in Western Australia says patients have 'every right' to ask whether the doctor they are seeing has been vaccinated against COVID-19 after a mid-west GP withdrew their services at an aged care facility over mandatory vaccination.

Nazareth Care confirmed one doctor who visits their residential aged care home in Geraldton had told them they would not be seeing patients.

The ABC understands another facility has also had a GP withdraw their service. 

"The GP advised us that they would not be able to continue to service the residents at Nazareth House, Geraldton because they would not be having a vaccination," Nazareth Care Australasian chief executive David Cotter said.

The organisation operates five aged care residential facilities in Australia at Ballarat, Camberwell, Tamworth and Wynnum and Mr Cotter said only two doctors had told them they would stop visiting patients because of the mandatory vaccination requirement for residential aged care workers.

"At a personal level GPs are entitled to make their own decision," Mr Cotter said.

He said the doctor had arranged for a 'seamless transition' of their patients' care to another visiting GP and he was confident that doctor could manage the workload.

AMA 'disappointed'

AMA WA president Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said he was disappointed by the doctor's decision.

"It is disappointing that a healthcare professional looking at the evidence would come to the conclusion that they are not happy to be vaccinated but that is a personal choice," Dr Duncan-Smith said.

He said about 99.9 percent of Australian doctors had been vaccinated and it was better for vulnerable patients not to see a doctor who had not had the jab.

"Those patients deserve to have the lowest chance of catching COVID and ultimately we do not want doctors and nurses who might be at greater chance of transmitting it to vulnerable patients to actually be seeing those vulnerable patients," Dr Duncan-Smith said.

He said the AMA had no position on whether patients had the right to be told if their GP was vaccinated but said they should feel free to ask the question.

"I think it is a reasonable question for a patient to ask the practice."

"I think they have every right to ask that question."

Leading Age Services Australia, the peak body representing aged care operators, said in a statement that it had "worked very close with all our members across the state to ensure that their staff have had the jab through our 'Proud to Protect' campaign and we have very successfully achieved a very high rate of vaccination in the sector, but GPs are not members of our association."

'Crucial part' of public health response

A spokesperson for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Medical Board of Australia said vaccination was a 'crucial part' of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Advising against vaccination unless there are evidence-based medical reasons undermines the national immunisation campaign and is not supported by the board."

There is no suggestion the Geraldton GPs are providing 'anti-vaccine' advice to patients. 

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