Dr Nespolon, a practicing Sydney GP, warned his colleagues nationally against handing out certificates in a webinar this week.
“The problem is, childcare centres will say ‘go and get a letter’,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Parents have been grappling with disruption from the coronavirus since children began returning to school and daycare in late January, when NSW and Victorian education departments told children who had been to China in the previous two weeks to stay home.
Soccajoeys, a franchise that runs soccer lessons for preschool and primary school aged kids in more than 90 suburbs across five states, wrote to parents this week demanding that parents “refrain from sending” children who had travelled to China since December “until they have been checked and cleared by a doctor”.
“A doctor’s certificate will be required prior to your child returning to Soccajoeys,” the email said.
“If you have not visited China, but your children are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms, please refrain from sending them to Soccajoeys until they have recovered.”
The email also asked parents to advise Soccajoeys “if you become aware of your child having been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus”.
GPs are emailing patients asking them to refrain from showing up unannounced with coronavirus symptoms – potentially putting doctors and staff at risk of contracting the deadly virus – and asking for medical certificates when they did not have symptoms.
A Canberra practice said in one email that while it could not provide medical certificates “to certify that you do not have coronavirus”, it could issue certificates “stating you returned to Australia 14 or more days ago, you state you have not been unwell and that you have no signs of infection”, if presented with travel documents.
The email said that if a patient thought “there is a possibility you may have been exposed to coronavirus, it is essential to let reception know immediately when you call”.
“We will be concerned if you discuss a possible coronavirus infection during a consultation without forewarning and precautions,” the email said.
“We may conduct your consultation over the phone to avoid the need for you to attend the practice.”
Those who did need to come in for “an examination and swabs” were asked to “please call reception on arrival to check-in and wait in your car for us to come and meet you”.
“If this is not possible then put on a mask immediately on entering the practice and make yourself known to reception as possibly having coronavirus,” the email said.
“You will be discretely directed to a separate room.”
Dr Nespolon said medical centre staff were worried about their own risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, which killed a doctor in China believed to have contracted it from a patient.
Chinese authorities have reported that more than a dozen doctors have been infected.
“Fortunately no one in Australia has died yet,” Dr Nespolon said.
“Risks are low in Australia, but people are still anxious as there is no treatment.”
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.