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Anti-vax doctor fined for breaching Covid-19 Public Health Response Act


Dr Jonie Girouard, pictured in February 2019 at the Silverstream Medical Centre.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Dr Jonie Girouard, pictured in February 2019 at the Silverstream Medical Centre.

An anti-vaccine former doctor has been fined $300 by the Ministry of Health for seeing patients face-to-face while unvaccinated against Covid-19 – narrowly dodging a much bigger fine.

North Canterbury GP and weight-loss clinic owner Jonie Girouard​​ was caught on camera giving out medical certificates at her Kaiapoi clinic as exemptions for the Pfizer vaccine in early December.

On Monday, the Medical Council of New Zealand confirmed she can no longer practise medicine in New Zealand after she requested her registration as a GP be removed from the council’s registry.

The ministry announced on Thursday it has issued Girouard with a $300 infringement notice for breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccination) Order 2021, an infringement offence under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

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“Specifically, it was for an unvaccinated affected person [a health practitioner] providing health services in-person,” a spokesperson said.

The ministry had previously declined an exemption for Girouard to still practise while unvaccinated.

“It is critical for staff working in the health and disability sector to be vaccinated because they are caring for people who are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

The Girouard Centre in Kaiapoi’s Silverstream subdivision.

Stuff

The Girouard Centre in Kaiapoi’s Silverstream subdivision.

“If a healthcare worker is unvaccinated, they can continue to see patients only if they are working 100 per cent remotely [or] via telehealth.”

The offending occurred on December 2, the ministry said, and at the time the infringement fee was set at $300.

Infringement fees for these offences were increased from $300 to $4000 shortly after the offence occurred.

Girouard was filmed by Newshub last month offering an alternative option for people who were against receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

Stuff

Roxie Mohebbi leads a discussion about the Covid-19 vaccine with immunologist Dr Maia Brewerton and general practitioner Dr Api Talemaitoga as part of Stuff’s Whole Truth project.

Her activities prompted a police and a Ministry of Health investigation, following a formal complaint by New Zealand Medical Association chairman Dr Alistair Humphrey.

Humphrey said he didn’t think a $300 fine would be a deterrent for future breaches of the Covid-19 legislation, and welcomed the increase.

“For those who saw the video there were probably half a dozen people in that waiting room all paying $50 a pop for a consultation, which appeared to all be for issuing an exemption.

“So those people have paid for the fine.”

NZ Medical Association chair Dr Alistair Humphrey.

Supplied

NZ Medical Association chair Dr Alistair Humphrey.

Humphrey made the complaint to police about Girouard’s activities, on the grounds of fraud.

Girouard’s diet chocolate business, Jonie G’s Guilt Free Chocolate, is also being probed by the Ministry of Primary Industries over its use of a sugar substitute not yet approved in New Zealand.

The products are sweetened with allulose, a naturally-derived sweetener extracted from plants like corn or wheat, and is extremely low in calories.

MPI has confirmed Girouard’s use of allulose may not be legal.

Food Safety deputy director-general Vince Arbuckle said any food business operating under the Food Act must ensure the food they manufacture is safe and suitable.

The Girouard weight-loss clinic doubles as a chocolate factory.

Stuff

The Girouard weight-loss clinic doubles as a chocolate factory.

“This includes being compliant under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

“As allulose is not currently permitted for sale, New Zealand Food Safety will be working with the Waimakariri District Council [the local registration authority] to look into this food business to ensure compliance.”

Allulose is not technically banned, and the substance is permitted as a sugar substitute in some other countries.

A Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) spokeswoman said allulose was considered a “novel food”, meaning more assessment was needed before it could be used in food in Australia or New Zealand.

Additional reporting by Cate Broughton.



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