Doctor probed over COVID work certificates fronts court

Doctor probed over COVID work certificates fronts court

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A doctor has fronted court accused of working while her medical licence was suspended amid an investigation into claims her clinic was handing out a high volume of COVID-19 vaccination exemption certificates.

Valerie Jean Peers faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where also she failed in a second attempt to have her name suppressed from publication.

Valerie Jean Peers, outside court on Tuesday.Credit: Jason South

The court heard Peers allegedly worked as a doctor out of an Altona North medical centre, over a number of months, after her registration to operate as a medical practitioner was suspended in November 2021.

The prosecution alleges that during those consultations, at the Millers Road clinic, Peers provided medical advice, treatment, and issued prescriptions or medical certificates to patients.

Peers was later charged with multiple counts of operating while unregistered, and one count of obstructing an investigator.

Authorities began investigating Peers after being told large queues had formed outside the clinic where she worked and accusations they had handed out a substantially higher number of COVID-19 vaccination exemption forms than other providers.

The Millers Road clinic in 2021.Credit: Luis Ascui

Peers, who represented herself in court, told Magistrate Angela Bolger the claims against her were “vexatious” and “malicious”.

The suspended doctor, who is fighting the charges, also challenged the magistrate over the validity of her medical licence suspension in court.

Peers claimed the fact that her name appeared on the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website proved that she was still a registered doctor, even if she was suspended.

“As a matter of law I retain the status of a registered medical practitioner,” Peers said.

“This is a malicious and vexatious case against a medical practitioner.”

Peers (right) leaves court on Tuesday.Credit: Jason South

Outside court, Peers, who was supported by a man and a woman, refused to comment when approached by the media, telling reporters to “f–k off”.

According to the AHPRA website, Peers remains suspended and is prohibited from working as a medical practitioner in Australia.

Records show she has been working as a doctor since 1967 after graduating from the University of Melbourne.

During the doctor’s alleged offending, Victoria was beginning to emerge from COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns with mandatory vaccination orders in place for workers requiring them to have had at least one jab.

By late November 2021, Victorians were ordered to have had two jabs, with Department of Health figures revealing hundreds of COVID infected patients in hospital and thousands of active cases in the community.

At the time, an APHRA spokesman said the consequences of providing an exemption when it was not warranted could be significant, including being barred from providing exemptions or managing patients in relation to COVID-19 matters. Doctors could also have their registrations suspended.

Peers was ordered to return to court in October.

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