Clive Palmer
Clive Palmer during an United Australia Party announcement in Brisbane. Image by Jono Sealre/AAP IMAGES

Clive Palmer’s claim 200 doctors have been ‘struck off’ fails basic check-up

AAP FactCheck February 9, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

More than 200 Australian doctors have been struck off the medical register during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OUR VERDICT

False. Since July 2019 - before the pandemic began - 61 medical practitioners in Australia have been struck off the register for any reason.

United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer has used a radio interview to claim more than 200 doctors have been struck off the medical register for raising concerns about the federal government’s response to COVID-19.

However, the claim is false. According to the bodies that oversee medical accreditation, 61 medical practitioners in Australia have been disqualified since July 1, 2019 – a starting date that predates the world’s first known case of COVID

It is therefore not possible that “over 200” doctors could have been struck off for raising objections related to COVID. 

Mr Palmer made the latest in a string of false claims about COVID (see here, here and here) during an interview on Perth’s 6PR radio on January 27

During a discussion about COVID vaccines, Mr Palmer said: “Over 200 doctors, Australian doctors, have been struck off because they objected to what was happening, and they can no longer practice” (audio mark 11min 30sec). 

Mr Palmer’s office did not respond to an AAP FactCheck request for the source of his claim. 

According to the Collins dictionary, “struck off” refers to a doctor or lawyer having their name removed from an official register of practice, meaning they are no longer allowed to do medical or legal work.

While Mr Palmer’s use of the phrase “because they objected to what was happening” is open to interpretation, the claim that more than 200 Australian doctors have been struck off is not correct. The total number of doctors disqualified for any reason since the beginning of the pandemic is far fewer than 200.

Regulation of registered health practitioners in Australia is overseen by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). In NSW, doctors are co-regulated by the Medical Council of NSW.

Ahpra told AAP FactCheck in an email that only authorised state and territory tribunals have the power to forcibly remove somebody from the medical register, which they can do where they find a doctor or other health practitioner has engaged in professional misconduct.

According to figures supplied by Ahpra and the Medical Council of NSW, 26 medical practitioners in Australia had their license revoked by a tribunal in 2019/2020 with a further 23 losing their license in 2020/21. 

A further 12 Australian medical practitioners have been disqualified so far in 2021/22, up to and including January 31 this year.

Ahpra was not able to say if any of the disqualifications in that period related to COVID or COVID vaccines. Some tribunal decisions are publicly available on the Ahpra website

Ahpra told AAP FactCheck that not all tribunal decisions are made public because in some cases publication could create a mental health risk or potentially identify a victim.

AAP FactCheck identified 16 tribunal decisions where a registered medical practitioner had their license revoked between January 19, 2020 – the day COVID-19 first arrived in Australia – and the day of Mr Palmer’s claim. None of those 16 decisions had any apparent link to COVID or its vaccines.

Separate to license disqualifications, regulators can take action to suspend doctors they believe present a serious and immediate risk to the public

The Verdict

Mr Palmer’s claim is false. Information provided by Australia’s health practitioner regulator shows that since July 2019, a total of 61 medical practitioners have been disqualified for any reason – around two per month.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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