Greater transparency needed on health advice provided to government, to enhance public confidence | AMA (WA)

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AMA (WA) | Media Release

Greater transparency needed on health advice provided to government, to enhance public confidence

Tuesday March 29, 2022

A ‘captain’s call’ such as that made by Premier McGowan regarding the easing of level 2 public health measures, due to commence this Thursday, should be clearly explained in the interests of trust and accountability, AMA (WA) President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said.

While the Premier’s media statement last Thursday stated the change was being made “based on the latest medical advice”, the advice provided by Chief Health Officer (CHO) Dr Andrew Robertson the same day shows this was not his preferred course of action.

In his letter to Mr McGowan, Dr Robertson stated:

“… it is my advice, as Chief Health Officer, that Level 2 PHSMs (Public Health and Social Measures) should ideally not be downgraded to Level 1 PHSMs until a minimum of one week and preferably two weeks after the peak of Omicron cases has been reached in WA. Any reduction of Level 2 PHSMs prior to that should be conducted with caution. A transition to lowering PHSMs prior to the peak can be considered, in the full knowledge that this may have the effect of increasing cases and hospitalisations.”

Despite his clear advice not to reduce restrictions prior to the peak, Dr Robertson added that if a reduction in restrictions was “deemed appropriate by Government”, changes to public health measures were recommended, which he itemised.

Responding to inquiries about this matter, a government spokesperson has responded that the new restrictions “are identical to those recommended by the Chief Health Officer in his advice”. However, these are the restrictions that the CHO suggested were only appropriate if his advice was ignored.

The AMA (WA) believes the health advice should be provided at the time of the Government’s health decisions, and explanation given for any deviation from that advice. That would fulfill the need for transparency, and provide confidence about why decisions might be made that differ from the expert health advice.

Comments attributed to AMA (WA) President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith:

“What they are implementing is the advice the Chief Health Officer gave them if they ignored his advice to not reduce restrictions. On the basis of that, they are saying they are following his advice. Sounds like an episode of Yes Minister to me!”

“Reducing restrictions when case numbers are still going up does not make a lot of sense, though we have seen the same thing done in the eastern states. Such an action is clearly against the best and trusted medical advice of the Chief Health Officer, and represents a captain’s call.”

“I call on the Premier to be just as quick as he is in reducing restrictions to re-introduce the same restrictions if cases start going in the wrong direction. Our medical system, doctors and nurses are tired and stretched, and they need to be protected so they can protect the people of Western Australia when needed.”


Please contact AMA (WA) Media on 0407 986 308 or via email for further information on this issue.