Not getting jab puts people at risk, says colleague after GP quits

Wakatipu Medical Centre has been rocked by a long-time doctor and another staff member quitting because they will not be vaccinated.

The pair would not meet a government mandate under which all healthcare workers have to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

‘‘Both these people were really skilled medical people,’’ senior doctor Val Miller said. She would not identify them.

‘‘It’s a real loss to the community and very sad for the rest of us, and obviously at a time when New Zealand’s very short of skilled [medical staff].’’

Dr Miller said she did not try to change their minds as ‘‘it’s not my business to do that’’.

‘‘Obviously, I have had discussions with them, but it’s entirely their business and their decisions what they do.’’

She also said the vaccine issue was not the only reason they left.

‘‘It leaves us all working double shifts and things like that.

‘‘But we’ll find somebody suitable to replace them.’’

Asked if she supported the Government’s policy for healthcare workers, Dr Miller replied: ‘‘I’m not going to say. Really, I just think there should have been room for accommodation.

‘‘We’ve always been taught to see other people’s point of view, to be able to talk around the situation, and work things out, and we’ve been put in a situation where ... we haven’t had that option.’’

Dr Miller, who was also a Queenstown Lakes District councillor, did not think her doctor’s resignation should spur on anti-vaxxers, being ‘‘one doctor out of how many millions throughout the world who are very comfortable with [the jab]’’.

Dr Miller had previously spoken publicly about being hesitant herself, until she became ‘‘quite confident in the science’’.

The doctor who had resigned was possibly only the third in New Zealand to hang up their stethoscope over the vaccine issue. The others were from the Kapiti Coast and Methven.

Royal NZ College of General Practitioners president Dr Samantha Murton emphasised that was ‘‘a very small number’’ out of about 5500 members in her organisation.

‘‘The vast majority have been vaccinated and continue to work.’’

She noted some members of the ‘NZ Doctors Speak Out With Science’ lobby group, which claimed to have 64 doctors, were in clinical practices, ‘‘but I don’t know what their plan is’’.

Dr Murton also said the vaccination order had been changed ‘‘so someone can work solely on telehealth, but ... can’t go into a medical practice’’.

Asked her view on those doctors who have quit, she said it was disappointing when there was such a shortage of GPs.

‘‘As a health professional, our job is to do no harm. Therefore if you choose not to be vaccinated then you’re putting people at risk if you are in contact with them, so that’s the difficulty we have.

‘‘And to get the health system running and for the greater good, [vaccinating] is the right thing to do ... but people have choice.’’

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