‘Unethical’: doctors condemn NSW government for considering charging unvaccinated patients for Covid

Healthcare should not be limited by past decisions and most Australians would not be able to afford ‘astronomical’ cost of ICU, AMA says.

Australia’s peak doctors body has criticised an “unethical” proposal to charge unvaccinated people for their medical care that is being considered by the New South Wales government.

The state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard, confirmed the government was looking at forcing people who had not received the jab to pay for their medical bills if they required hospital treatment for Covid.

“This is an option under consideration by the NSW government,” Hazzard said in a statement on Wednesday evening after it was first reported by Sydney radio station 2GB.

The health minister did not provide any further details about how such a plan would work and did not respond to further questions.

The idea represents a radical departure from Australia’s system of universal healthcare and has attracted fierce criticism.

The Australian Medical Association president, Dr Omar Khorshid, labelled the proposal “unethical”.

“The big issue from a medical point of view is that it’s really not ethical or the right thing to do to limit access to healthcare based on people’s previous health choices,” he told Guardian Australia.

“If you follow that same logic, are you going to ask smokers to pay for their healthcare?

“I think it would be a real shame if through this pandemic we lose our compassion, we lose our humanity, and our care for fellow Australians, even if they’ve made choices we think are unwise or incorrect or even completely antisocial.”

Khorshid said he was unsure whether such a proposal would be legal or if it would violate the National Health Reform Agreement, struck between the states and the commonwealth, through which public hospital funding flows.

“Any change to that would be a very substantial change to our public hospitals,” he said.

He also questioned how it could be enforced given the cost of an ICU admission for Covid-19 was “astronomical” and there was “no way” the average Australian would have any way of paying the bill.