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Doctors’ requests to be exempt from vaccine policy dismissed by Alberta justice

A medical staff member prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre in Paris on December 7, 2021. Mylene Deroche/ABACAPRESS.COM

An Alberta judge has dismissed an application by four doctors who wanted to be exempt from an Alberta Health Services requirement that all health-care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Henderson says his decision is in the public interest because he does not want Albertans to question the rules the health provider has put in place to try to curb spread of the virus.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nadr Jomha; Dr. Blaine Achen, chief of cardiac anesthesia at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute; and physicians Gert Grobler and Tyler May filed the request earlier this month.

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Richard Secord, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, represented the doctors and argued all four had built a natural immunity to COVID-19 after testing positive and recovering from the infection.

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Secord also argued that the doctors are facing termination, restrictions and disciplinary action for going against their employer.

The health agency twice delayed its deadline for health-care workers to get vaccinated before making Dec. 13 the final day to provide proof.

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Henderson told court the doctors have genuine, subjective concerns but “whether those concerns are objectively reasonable is an issue that cannot be resolved today” He said Alberta Health Services had not had enough time to submit evidence.

“Because of the policy, three of the four plaintiffs have had their privileges suspended, and are therefore effectively prevented from carrying on any medical practice at any AHS facility,” Henderson said.

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The doctors also argued that the policy could tarnish their reputation and said they are losing significant income.

Henderson said Alberta Health Services is willing to meet the doctors in court in mid-March to reassess their dismissals once the agency is able to gather enough evidence.

“There is nothing to suggest that AHS was acting in bad faith,” the judge said.

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“I do doubt that AHS might be wrong in its assessment of the value of vaccines, just as the chief medical officer of Canada might be wrong and the chief officers in Canada might be wrong.

“We have entrusted these decisions to AHS. It would be harmful to Albertans to undermine their decision making.”

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