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New Zealand nurse is suspended and charged $18,000 for ‘inappropriate’ Covid vaccine comments during a 2021 protest

A New Zealand nurse has been suspended for three months and ordered to pay $18,000 after being charged with professional misconduct over comments she made in an interview during an anti-Covid vaccine mandate protect in 2021.

The Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal found on April 18 that Debra Green, from Christchurch, had brought “discredit to the profession” by telling news personality Chantelle Baker she had seen large numbers of adverse vaccine reactions, that unvaccinated patients were being segregated, and that fellow staff were “blind” to the problem.

“The video interview was undertaken during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic in circumstances where those who were uncertain about whether to get vaccinated were likely to be especially vulnerable to being misled. Ms Green was not an expert as she portrayed and had no legitimate authority to purport to whistle blow about the circumstances of the ED to Christchurch,” the tribunal found.

“Her conduct carried a significant likelihood of undermining the public trust and confidence in both the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the nursing profession.”

Ms Green did not attend the hearing, and was censured, had her nurse’s registration suspended for three months, and was ordered to pay 30% of the costs and incidental to the hearing fixed at $18,000.

She was also ordered to complete two courses at her own expense, obtain professional supervision for 12 months at her own expense, and disclose the tribunal’s decision to any employer or potential employer for one year, if she wishes to recommence her practice.

The tribunal heard that Ms Green’s position at Christchurch Hospital, which she had held for eight years, was terminated on November 19, 2021, after she refused to take the Covid vaccine – a violation of the country’s strict mandates.

The next day she attended a Freedom March in her nurse’s uniform, and was approached by Ms Baker for an interview.

“The bulk of the patients would be vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated you get segregated, you get put in a different part of ED, put into isolation,” she said.

“I had one consultant on my last night, she stood in front of our big board with everybody, all the patients and all their symptoms and she said, ‘what’s going on? Why have we got so many patients?’

“It’s all cardiac, cardiac, cardiac, short of breath, you know, collapses, falls and I just can say – tick, tick, tick, this is adverse reaction, adverse reaction. All of our wards are full, you know, of people having cardiac problems, people with flare ups from their cancer, like you name it. It’s just, I guarantee a hospital is full of vaccine damaged, it’s just, people were blind, people just cannot see it.”

The tribunal ruled that the above statements were “lacking in sincerity and meaningful content” and that she had disparaged an unidentified male doctor in another part of the interview by claiming he had regretted doing a test for blood clots because it revealed a vaccine-injured patient.

“It was quite misleading for Ms Green to suggest that the hospital was full of ‘cardiac’ patients. The ED is available for people with acute admissions including those with heart conditions,” the decision read.

“The statement that the staff are ‘blind’ to the damage caused by the vaccine is unprofessional and disparaging of her colleagues.”

The tribunal did not assess whether her comments were factual or not.

In a letter to the tribunal sent last year Ms Green defended her comments on the basis of free expression.

“What I said regarding vaccine injuries/adverse reactions and how they were being treated by health professionals at the time, was truthful. I therefore consider it appropriate to raise this as part of the general discourse on vaccinations, as occurs in a free and democratic society,” she wrote.

“That said … I did exaggerate the concerns I had, which I did not mean to do. For this I do wish to apologise.”

The tribunal found that while the right to freedom of expression was engaged in Ms Green’s case, it was not protected under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act due to her professional responsibilities in the context of a public health emergency.

Ms Green was charged after the Nursing Council received seven complaints, including one accusing her of “spreading misinformation”. Another reported the video to Facebook saying it posed a “risk of public harm”.

The suspension comes after doctor Mitch Sambell was suspended for being critical of the Covid-19 vaccines and mask mandates in Western Australia, and ordered to undergo an education and mentoring program on medical ethics and infection control.

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