Canada begins cracking down on marginal medical groups

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In his Twitter profile picture, Patrick Phillips, MD, poses with a stethoscope. He tweets how ivermectin could end the COVID-19 pandemic, encourages his more than 36,800 subscribers to request vaccine exemptions and compare getting vaccinated what the Jewish people endured in Nazi Germany. Seems familiar? He wouldn’t be out of place in America’s Frontline Doctors, the group that garnered a lot of attention for their equally provocative stances – but the little maple leaf flag to his name says otherwise.

Doctors and nurses who question COVID vaccination, masks and other medical advice aren’t confined to the United States – they are quickly racking up their own subscribers in Canada. Foremost among these collectives are perhaps Concerned Ontario Doctors and Canadian Frontline Nurses, with whom a number of contrasting clinicians have aligned themselves.

“I feel like the subset, the very right-wing political fringe, is more important in the United States than in Canada, but we have it here too,” said David Juurlink, MD, PhD, pharmacologist and internist in Toronto. .

“To be completely honest, we never really dealt with medical professionals before the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “Usually they will keep a distance from the angle of hate, but they always stand side by side with groups and individuals promoting hate.”

“It’s a growing problem, for sure, [and] it gets worse “with the introduction of proof of vaccine requirements for various events and businesses,” she added.

Provincial professional medical regulatory bodies are beginning to formally respond in an effort to tackle the misinformation disseminated by physicians, whose honorary physicians give them and their associated fringe groups a veneer of credibility.

“When it comes to disinformation disseminated by healthcare professionals, this obviously has greater consequences,” said Krishana Sankar, PhD, of ScienceUpFirst, an organization that fights against disinformation in Canada and is partially funded. by the Canadian Association of Science Centers. “It’s because these are the trusted voices that we usually tell people to get their information from, to take their advice.”

According to information released this week, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) has confirmed that it spoke directly to seven doctors after receiving complaints that they disseminated misinformation about COVID-19 online. . The Canadian Press reported that the regulator had also spoken with doctors who issued vaccine exemption letters to patients without clinical evidence.

“Spreading false information is not a physician’s professional responsibility to his or her patients, and CPHA takes it very seriously. While we cannot speak to individual cases, CPHA has a responsibility to Albertans to investigate regulated members who share inaccurate and potentially dangerous information. “the group said in a statement.

Alberta has the highest number of COVID cases in the past week in Canada, according to their government website, and one of the highest infection rates.

Two other professional regulatory groups, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) did not respond to requests for comment.

Concerned Ontario Doctors, perhaps the Canadian equivalent of America’s Frontline Doctors, has accumulated over 23,400 followers on Twitter; the group is led by Kulvinder Kaur Gill, MD, who has more than 117,600 subscribers on the platform. Phillips also appeared in one of their videos, titled “Medical Censorship and the Harms of Lockdown.”

Gill was sanctioned by the CPSO. Their records show that she was given a “face-to-face warning” before a College panel following an investigation into her practice and show three separate “cautions”. His tweets from June and August 2020 alleged that the blockages were harmful, that testing and tracing was ineffective, and that vaccines were not needed.

The medical community has criticized Gill in the past for promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, which has been shown to be ineffective for treating COVID-19.

Gill also retweeted the pro-hydroxychloroquine sentiments of Simone Gold, MD, JD, the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, Radio-Canada News reported.

In May, the CPSBC sanctioned family physician Stephen Malthouse, MD, according to Radio-Canada News. Malthouse sued the regulator after receiving a letter from them saying he had been the subject of complaints from other doctors and would be investigated and barred from speaking about issues related to COVID -19.

As for Canadian front-line nurses, they have acquired a certain notoriety for their role in organizing events outside Canadian hospitals for what they call “medical freedom” and “informed consent” – their stance against vaccines and immunization records. But Simons said the group is smaller than it looks. “There are, like, two nurses who are actually involved in this,” she said. “They often come across as a huge number of people, but the reality is that they are a very small fringe group.”

The group also retweeted Gold’s tweets. One expert said he was not surprised by the overlap between far-right groups. “The information that is generally trending on social media platforms comes mainly from the United States,” said Aengus Bridgman, a doctoral candidate in political science at McGill University in Montreal, who heads the Canadian Election Misinformation Project there. “Much of the conspiracy thought – bogus remedies like hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin – has flown north. We’re very exposed in Canada to that.”

Simons said medical professionals peddling disinformation play a role in the real consequences of COVID conspiracy thinking. “They are held to such a standard. And they have such a responsibility for what is going on.”

Juurlink said he was exhausted by the misinformation and debunking of what patients read or heard. “Some of these doctors have very, very large followers, they have big megaphones and people are listening to them,” he noted. But he thinks people who are inclined to believe that medical professionals who align themselves with “Frontline” type groups would have harbored those views in the first place.

“They are cooks, they are outliers, they do not represent consensus medical opinions,” he added. “But they have a lot of followers and the reason they have a lot of followers is that people who share their political beliefs usually follow them.”

  • Sophie Putka is a corporate and investigative writer for MedPage Today. His work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Discover, Business Insider, Inverse, Cannabis Wire, etc. She joined MedPage Today in August 2021. To follow

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