Who is considered a critical health worker?
NZ Skeptics were recently contacted by a journalist in response to an Official Information Act request which revealed the numbers of people and their occupations entering the country under the guise of being a critical health worker.
Shockingly there were eight people who were listed as osteopaths and two chiropractors. Our concerns are that alternative health practitioners are considered critical health workers!
While we are disappointed that these practitioners are being let in, we don’t find it surprising. It seems unlikely that the Department of Immigration is going to be au fait with the subtleties of which categories of medical providers actually have scientific evidence as a basis for their practice. We would hope that the Department of Health would provide robust guidelines as to which workers truly are critical, but this is probably not the case.
This time last year, in the early stages of NZ/Aotearoa’s response to the pandemic we saw chiropractors offering to be essential health workers. My reading of this is that is that the press release reads like a plea by chiropractors to retain some relevance. Chiropractors, who are largely a hands-on service, would have struggled with the reduced demand for their services during that time.
Of most concern in the era of COVID-19 and the vaccination rollout is that osteopaths and chiropractors often express vaccine hesitancy and outright anti-vax views.
It does seem that organisations representing these vocations are doing some back-pedalling when it comes to vaccination. Indeed, we’ve recently seen a very good paper written in the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine that expresses exactly that concern:
"However, we are concerned with the negative sentiments, ill-formed views and in some cases frank scepticism regarding vaccines amongst what appears to be small sections of the osteopathic profession. There is global concern at the growing 'anti vax' sentiment that is expressed on social media and within other intra-health professional groups and settings”
To our mind we see this as a case of osteopaths telling their own to get their house in order. We wonder whether any osteopaths in NZ are paying attention to this warning.
Ultimately this issue falls to government policy, and appears to be a product of the less than stunning job that successive governments have done protecting Kiwis from alternative medicine practitioners making dubious, unsupported claims.
As mentioned above, the Medical and Dental councils have issued guidance to their practitioners. NZ Skeptics would challenge the respective organisations for chiropractors and osteopaths to issue similarly strong guidance to their members.