An order that two doctors stop issuing medical exemptions for COVID-19 shots is fuelling concerns about the lack of a verification system in Ontario.
The province’s regulatory body for physicians issued the orders Monday to Dr. Mark Trozzi of Harrow, south of Windsor, and Dr. Rochagne Kilian, of Owen Sound. Both have been public with their skepticism about vaccines and the pandemic on social media and elsewhere.
While it’s not known how many potentially invalid exemption letters are circulating, critics say it’s long past time for the province to put checks in place to shore up Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination system for getting into restaurants, professional sports and other venues as winter approaches.
“How can we be assured of the reliability of the exemptions if the government hasn’t put a system in place to give us that assurance?” New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said.
Her remarks followed a notice from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which also barred the two doctors from issuing exemptions from wearing masks or being tested for COVID-19, and requires them to post the orders in view of any patients they examine in person or virtually.
Under the current system, Ontario residents claiming medical exemptions simply show a letter from their doctor or nurse practitioner stating they cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination when they enter a venue covered by the vaccination certificate program.
Critics argue that using the “honour system” leaves room for inappropriate exemptions and phoney letters that are checked only by restaurant or venue staff, rather than by a public health official.
On his website, Trozzi calls COVID-19 a “so-called ‘pandemic’” and baselessly accuses federal chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam of being a “double agent.”
Kilian recently spoke at a rally of the Grey-Bruce Freedom Fighters, whose Facebook page states “this group believes in medical choice, not medical tyranny.”
She resigned as an emergency room physician at the Owen Sound Hospital in August.
On the Sept. 16 edition of the “Strong and Free Truthcast,” Kilian suggested that she believes COVID-19 vaccinations have led to an increase in health problems among her patients.
The broadcast is run by StrongAndFreeCanada.org, which maintains “the vaccinated are the real pandemic” and opposes mandatory vaccinations, masks and lockdowns.
The World Health Organization, Health Canada and Ontario chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore have all promoted vaccinations as safe and effective in fighting COVID-19, along with public-health measures such as masking, distancing and handwashing.
The interim orders from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario against the two doctors were made under the Regulated Health Professions Act under a procedural code introduced in 2018.
It allows regulatory bodies like the college to suspend or impose terms, conditions or limitations on a member’s certificate of registration “where the college believes that the conduct exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury.”
Trozzi has also promoted the use of ivermectin, a drug not authorized for treatment of the coronavirus, as an “extremely effective safe prevention, prophylaxis and treatment for COVID.
“I have resigned all my hospital positions thus forfeiting my entire income. I have sold my house and greatly downscaled my family’s standard of living, while surviving on limited savings, and committed myself to do my part to help counter the criminal COVID enterprise,” he writes on his website.
In Windsor, Premier Doug Ford said it’s up to the College of Physicians and Surgeons to police vaccination exemptions.
“I’m going to rely on them,” Ford said Monday. “The two docs, I guess they got their hands slapped over this.”
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the college “needs to be vigilant” and accused Ford of undermining the vaccine passports.
But the college has no powers to set up a verification system, and relies on complaints to trigger its investigations.
Ontario chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore has said the legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated are limited to severe allergies to vaccine ingredients and inflammation in and around the heart, which statistically means there should be no more than five exemptions per 100,000 people.
That has raised questions about the two medical exemptions claimed in Ford’s caucus of 70 MPPs, by Lindsey Park (Durham) and Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre).
On Friday, Ford said he has no concerns about the apparent anomaly and vouched for the two MPPs.
“I saw the letters and they were signed by a physician in good standing,” he said.
Horwath expressed skepticism about Ford’s statement.
“On a situation like this, why would anybody want to trust him?” she asked.
Park, a lawyer, was dropped as parliamentary assistant to Attorney Doug Downey for misrepresenting her vaccination status to her colleagues.
Ford requires all MPPs and candidates for next June’s election to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a valid medical reason.
Park has not replied to the Star’s repeated requests for comment.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1