'Not a doctor': Q&A guests apologise over claim about chief health officer

·3-min read

Two guests on ABC's Q&A have apologised after public backlash followed their remarks saying Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is not a doctor.

On last night's episode guest host David Speers posed a question which was sent in about the Covid-19 outbreaks in Victoria.

"When is someone going to ask the state government in Victoria why they can't handle the outbreaks like NSW?" Speers asked, quoting a viewer's question.

"The Victorian government has been asked that. Tom, what's the answer?"

Guests on Thursday’s episode of Q&A on the ABC.
On Thursday’s episode of Q&A, two guests on the show asserted Professor Brett Sutton was 'not a doctor'. Source: ABC

3AW Drive Host Tom Elliott began answering the question, saying he knows doctors who think Prof Sutton has "got it completely wrong".

Then two of the other guests, Hana Assafiri and Susan Alberti, both interjected to say Prof Sutton is not a doctor. 

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Viewers were taken aback by the suggestion Prof Sutton is not a doctor. Victoria's Chief Health Officer is a doctor and he has an extensive resume detailing his work in the medical field both in Australia and overseas.

"Professor Sutton has extensive experience and clinical expertise in public health and communicable diseases, gained through emergency medicine and field-based international work, including in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste," it says on the Victorian Government's website.

"That defamatory lie about Brett Sutton should have been immediately refuted and the person alleging it made to apologise," someone tweeted.

"You said Professor Brett Sutton is not a Dr, yet he holds an MBBS, a Master of Public Health, and is a professor," another said.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is pictured.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is a doctor, having experience both in Australia and overseas. Source: AAP

Since the backlash, both Ms Assafiri and Ms Alberti have apologised on social media and clarified what they meant.

Ms Assafiri tweeted that she meant Prof Sutton is not simply a doctor, saying her comments didn't "translate well".

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Ms Alberti retweeted Assafiri's tweet and made her own explanation, saying she didn't have sufficient time on the program to convey what she meant when she wanted to point out the Chief Medical Officer was not an epidemiologist.

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Later in the program, Speers did clarify Prof Sutton is in fact a doctor.

"Before we go, a clarification on an earlier claim - I don't know who made it, in particular - it was a claim about Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer in Victoria," Speers said. 

"He is a medical doctor who's worked in both emergency medicine and public health. So we want to get that on the record tonight before we go."

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