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Medical Council ‘did not act with urgency’ on suspension case

The Medical Council “did not act with the utmost urgency” in bringing an application to immediately suspend a doctor’s registration, accepted the President of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine in a judgment on 2 March.

As part of his response, Dr Gerard Waters, GP, Whitethorn Clinic, Celbridge, Co Kildare, argued that the Council had been aware of a complaint against him since 16 September 2020.

Accordingly, he maintained the Council could not now claim that such urgency existed to warrant a suspension under section 60 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.

A complaint raised by a patient of Dr Waters on 16 September claimed that, during a consultation, Dr Waters allegedly referred to the pandemic as a “hoax” and suggested wearing of masks was causing illness.

The patient stated they had made an enquiry to the surgery on 14 September about referral for a Covid-19 test, but was informed by a staff member that Dr Waters could not make a referral as the practice did not have a computerised system to facilitate such referrals.

In his initial reply to the Council last October, Dr Waters made various claims regarding a link between what he described as “propaganda” perpetuated by governments and the media in relation to Covid-19 being used to “front run” an economic collapse in the Western world, according to the judgment. Over the following months, a series of correspondences continued between Dr Waters and the Council, which sought assurances that he would follow HSE Covid-19 guidelines.

It later came to the attention of the Council that a patient of Dr Waters went on the RTÉ Liveline radio programme on 11 February 2021. The host stated that his programme manager had spoken with Dr Waters prior to the broadcast and that he had explained he would not administer the Covid-19 vaccine because he was a “conscientious objector”. At the time of the judgment, Dr Waters had not provided details of his over-70 patient cohort to the HSE as requested.

Ms Justice Irvine accepted that the Council “did not act with the utmost urgency in bringing the application and that the urgency with which a suspension application is brought often speaks to the Council’s perception of the risks which the medical practitioner’s conduct poses to the public”. However, she considered “the significance of those risks cannot be determined by the speed with which the application is brought”. Rather the court should “principally look to the risk that the respondent’s conduct poses to his patients and the public at large”.

Ms Justice Irvine made an order that Dr Waters be suspended from the medical register and prohibited from practising medicine, pending the determination of complaints before the Council. The court also made orders to facilitate the ongoing provision of medical care by other doctors to patients of the Whitethorn Clinic.

Following the making of the suspension order, a banner appeared on the wall of the Whitethorn Clinic which stated: “Dr Waters has been suspended from the medical register, because he refused to give the Covid-19 vaccine and objected to the Covid-19 lockdowns.”

According to a statement issued by the Council, it was concerned that this banner “misrepresented the basis for the making of the suspension order”. The Council, therefore, made an application to the High Court on 31 March that the judgment be published and the banner removed. The court made an order on 31 March granting both of those reliefs

“In circumstances where the Council understands that an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the suspension has now issued on behalf of Dr Waters and where this matter is still being considered by the Medical Council under Part 7 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Medical Council will not be making further comment,” stated the Council.

The Medical Independent asked the Council why it made its section 60 application several months after receipt of the patient complaint, which had alleged a number of non-compliances with national public health guidance.

“As this is an ongoing regulatory matter we cannot comment further,” said a spokesperson.

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