Chris Higgins: Melbourne doctor with coronavirus symptoms but “deliberately” continued seeing patients and infecting 70 of them.
Dr Chris Higgins, a General Practitioner with the Toorak clinic has been heavily criticized by the Victorian State Health Minister, Dr Jenny Mikakos for “intentionally” continuing to see patients even when he knew he had symptoms of coronavirus.
Dr Higgins has long been confirmed positive for coronavirus though has been quarantined, is reported to have infected 70 persons all of whom were his patients. The health ministry said they are trying to contact the 70 patients of the Melbourne doctor (Dr Higgins) with a view to isolating them.
Dr Chris Higgins is the state’s 11th case of the novel coronavirus and the state health minister, Jenny Mikakos, said he attended work and treated patients after he was symptomatic.
“I have to say I am flabbergasted that a doctor that has flu-like symptoms has presented to work,” Mikakos said.
“He became unwell with a runny nose on an internal flight from Denver to San Francisco on February 27, US time, then flew to from San Francisco to Melbourne on United Airlines flight UA60, arriving at approximately 9.30am Saturday 29 February.”
The doctor saw approximately 70 patients last week between Monday 2 March and Friday 6 March at the Toorak Clinic on Malvern Road. The clinic has been since closed.
Patients have been contacted by text message, phone or email and two patients the doctor treated in a Malvern nursing home have been isolated.
All patients the doctor saw and all clinic staff have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. The clinic’s other patients have been asked to monitor their symptoms.
“Our advice to the community is that if you have returned from overseas and are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms than please stay home, do not go to work, you should self isolate until such time as you are able to be presenting to a doctor, getting medical advice about whether you potentially have Covid-19,” Mikakos said.
“I understand our medical and healthcare workers are dedicated to the work they do. It is incredibly important work and they are absolutely committed to their patients and I understand, particularly at this time of, I guess, an international health emergency, that all healthcare workers would be wanting to assist their patients. But it is irresponsible for people to be going to work if they are unwell, and that is not just healthcare workers, it is everybody in the community who needs to take this very seriously.”
She said the doctor’s symptoms were mild, as 80% of coronavirus cases had been globally, but that his decision to continue to treat patients was something for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to pursue.
“It is very important that what may present as a mild case is still taken seriously, because we know this is a disease, a virus that is easily transmitting in the community, as we have seen from the fact that we now have more than 100,000 cases internationally, and it is important that we are all alive to the risks.”
Passengers on the flight with the doctor would also be contacted, Mikakos said, but added there were no other public exposure sites for the case.
The minister urged those who believed they may have been on the same flight to call the country’s emergency hotline.
You are unfair, irresponsible, unprofessional and playing to the gallery – Dr Higgins, Australian Medical Association and other well citizens lambasts the state health minister .
In a reply to a post on Ms Mikakos’s Facebook page, Chris Higgins, a doctor at the Toorak Clinic in Melbourne, said he was “upset about the inaccuracies and unfairness of [her] comments” and demanded an apology.
Dr Higgins said Ms Mikakos’s version of events did not match what he had told her department.
“I had a mild cold when I returned from the USA last Saturday morning, which had almost resolved itself by Monday morning, hence my decision to return to work,” he said.
“I hesitated to do a swab because I did not fulfil your criteria for testing but did one anyway on Thursday evening for sake of completeness, not imagining for one moment it would turn out to be positive.
Dozens of other replies to Ms Mikakos’s post offered support for Dr Higgins, who is singer Missy Higgins’s father, and accused Ms Mikakos of “throwing him under the bus”.👇
Australian Medical Association Victoria president Julian Rait said “it is unfair to apply retrospective judgements about health workers given the rapidly evolving nature of this epidemic and the prior clinical advice that has been given about who should be isolated and tested.”
“I doubt this poor GP would have met the Government’s own criteria for testing and self-isolation.”
Victorian Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier said Ms Mikakos had lost the confidence of the state’s GPs and should resign.
“Her position in my mind is untenable,” Ms Crozier said.
“You cannot have so many people having lost confidence in the Health Minister, the very person that should be providing that direction and confidence during what is a serious public health issue, and that in my mind means it’s an untenable position for the minister to be in.”
Patients and staff of the hospital has long been quarantined and hospital shutdown.