Australian doctors want ministerial apology for ‘shaming’ GP with COVID-19

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Doctors in Australia have demanded an apology from a state health minister who sharply criticised a GP for working while unaware he had coronavirus. BBC News reports that Dr Chris Higgins treated about 70 patients in Melbourne while sick with what he thought was a cold. Victoria Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she was “flabbergasted that a doctor that has flu-like symptoms presented to work”.

The report states that Higgins defended himself, saying he had followed official advice. He said he had returned from a trip to the US on 29 February. It’s believed he contracted the virus overseas.

Mikakos acknowledged in a press briefing that doctors were “dedicated” but added: “It is irresponsible for people to be going to work if they are unwell.” The report says she didn’t name Higgins, but identified his clinic and other details. She also suggested his conduct could be referred to regulators.

Responding on social media, Dr Higgins identified himself as the “doctor concerned”. He said: “I have been upset about the inaccuracies and unfairness of your comments. I hesitated to do a swab because I did not fulfil your criteria for testing but did one anyway on Thursday evening for sake of completeness, not imagining for one moment it would turn out to be positive.”

The report says Higgins has received much support from others, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA). Mikakos declined to apologise, reiterating warnings to health care workers to stay home if they were unwell.

The report says the saga has highlighted some confusion about Australia’s public health advice about coronavirus. Critics say politicians have sometimes contradicted or overstepped the guidance from health officials. The number of positive tests for COVID-19 in Australia has escalated in the past fortnight. More than 80 local cases have been recorded, including three people who have died.

Full BBC News report

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