'Disappointed and upset': Canterbury anti-vax GP putting lives at risk - PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned the actions of a Canterbury doctor issuing medical certificates as vaccine exemptions, saying she is putting lives at risk.

It comes as the New Zealand Medical Council confirms it has received a notification about Dr Jonie Girouard and is now considering how best to keep the public safe.

Ardern this morning confirmed investigations were under way into the actions of the Kaiapoi doctor, who was caught on camera issuing fake vaccine exemption certificates.

The Prime Minister said the doctor's actions were dangerous and officials were making sure this would not happen again.

"I think everybody would be disappointed and upset to see a health professional undertaking activity such as this that puts people at risk."

She said medical professionals should not be issuing misinformation or "acting fraudulently".

She confirmed that officials in the Health Ministry were now looking at it.

"I do want to give some reassurance here - this appears to be the actions of some individuals here and we will be looking at ways of ensuring it cannot be replicated.

"If a medical professional is not vaccinated, they should not be operating."

It comes as the Medical Association said police should be investigating the anti-vax doctor who was caught on camera issuing fake vaccine exemption certificates.

The documents being issued suggested a "fraudulent practice" and there was a "strong case to be answered here for fraud", chairman Alistair Humphrey said today.

One of the fake vaccine exemption certificates. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
One of the fake vaccine exemption certificates. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
The Zealand Medical Council confirmed it had received a notification about the doctor who was caught on camera issuing people with fake vaccine exemptions.

Medical council chair Dr Curtis Walker said the council was aware of concerns raised about Girouard.

"Council is considering these concerns in terms of our primary role of protecting the health and safety of New Zealanders," he said.

The New Zealand Medical Council said there were a number of options available to the medical council if a doctor did not comply with standards including suspension or placing conditions on a doctor's practice to protect the public from harm.

The council could also refer the notification to a Professional Conduct Committee for further investigation.

Curtis said it was the council's view that there was no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice, nor breaches in professional and legal standards such as conducting an in-person consultation while unvaccinated.

"Council takes these matters very seriously, and steps in as early as possible when a notification is made or information comes to light, to make sure patients and the public are kept safe. Protection of the health and safety of New Zealanders is the touchstone against which the Council considers every decision about individual doctors," said Walker.

He said primarily the responsibility for ensuring health workers comply with the new Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 rested with the Ministry of Health and Worksafe.

But the medical council had a role if it received a notification about a doctor not working within guidance and standards as part of its role ensuring public health and safety.

The council had recently published recent guidance to doctors setting out the body's expectations as a measure of its concern. The council also expected doctors to be aware of and comply with standards of clinical and ethical practice.

"Council highlights the importance of doctors acting professionally and ethically. These are key principles that should guide a doctor in their dealings with patients and their families, and in the clinical decisions that they make about the patient's care. We encourage any patient with concerns about the competence or conduct of any doctor to raise those concerns with us or the Health and Disability Commissioner," said Curtis.

Meanwhile, Girouard wasn't at her Kaiapoi clinic today.

When the Herald paid her a visit at her home in Sefton, North Canterbury, her husband threatened to call the police.

"Get off the property, now," the irate Michael Girouard said.

He threatened the Herald with trespass orders while his wife also refused to comment.

Health officials were made aware of the situation after a reporter went undercover and visited the Canterbury GP's clinic in a bid to see if he could get an exemption himself.

Girouard, who runs a weight-loss clinic in Kaiapoi, has been offering an alternative option for people who do not want to get vaccinated.

A note on the clinic window states it does not discriminate against anyone based on their gender, religious, age or "personal medical decisions".

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