Multiple investigations are underway after a Canterbury doctor was filmed issuing COVID vaccine medical certificate exemptions to anti-vaxxers.
This is despite the fact official exemptions need to go through the Ministry of Health to be assessed and issued. Intentional breaches can lead to fines or a prison sentence for up to six months.
Registered GP Dr Jonie Girouard runs a weight loss clinic in Kaiapoi. After Newshub learnt she was issuing medical certificate exemptions to the vaccine to anti-vaxxers, a highly-experienced journalist went in undercover using a hidden camera.
Newshub recorded her giving out medical certificate exemptions to people who don't want the vaccine and coaching them on how to use them to get past employers affected by mandates. She even boasted that one of her certificates has been used to evade international border control.
Newshub can confirm authorities investigating include the Ministry of Health (MoH), WorkSafe, and the Health and Disability Commissioner - and government sources tell Newshub the Police could become involved too.
The MoH told Newshub it is "aware of this situation and it is under investigation".
"The intent of the Order is to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from COVID-19 and to limit the spread of the virus," a spokesperson said.
"The exemptions process is designed to support people with genuine reasons for an exemption on medical grounds and the Ministry of Health takes its role in assessing and issuing medical exemptions very seriously."
To get a temporary medical exemption, all applications must be made on the MoH application form by a practitioner and provided to the MoH clinical panel for recommendation to the Director-General of Health.
"This process ensures that all applications for exemptions are properly considered by the independent panel and are only granted where there are genuine reasons for doing so, in accordance with the agreed clinical criteria," the spokesperson explained.
"The process and criteria for a temporary medical exemption under the Vaccinations Order is not met by a doctor's letter."
The punishment for intentional breaches can include fines or a prison sentence for up to six months.
Newshub's undercover footage also showed Dr Girouard carrying out face-to-face consultations while unvaccinated herself.
"Nah, you couldn't force me, I'll stop practising medicine before I get vaccinated with this vaccine. I have had lots of vaccines before, but not this one," she said on the video.
"I mean really this is horrible, horrible medicine."
The MoH told Newshub it is "critical" for staff in the health and disability sector to be vaccinated because they are caring for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
"If a healthcare worker is unvaccinated, they can continue to see patients only if they are working 100 percent remotely / via telehealth," a spokesperson said.
The Medical Council of New Zealand told Newshub there is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice, nor breaches in professional standards such as conducting an in-person consultation while unvaccinated.
"Any notifications received by Council about a doctor issuing medical exemption certificates inappropriately would be taken seriously and considered in light of the Ministry guidance and criteria," its chair Dr Curtis Walker said in a statement.
"If a doctor is not complying with the standards set by Council, there are a number of options available to Council which in the most serious cases can include suspension or placing conditions on a doctor's practise to protect the public from harm and referring the notification to a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) for further investigation."
WorkSafe also confirmed to Newshub it is making enquiries into Dr Girouard.
Dr Girouard refused to comment to Newshub, saying she's "not talking to any journalists".