Nick Coatsworth slams Norman Swan saying the ABC’s ‘most trusted’ doctor doesn’t see patients


Former deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth has has mocked ABC Covid pundit Norman Swan’s marketing slogan of being ‘Australia’s most trusted doctor’.

Dr Swan’s reputation took a hit last week when he suggested the fatal heart attacks of cricket legend Shane Warne and Labor senator Kimberley Kitching, both 52, were likely Covid-related. 

Dr Swan told Daily Mail Australia it was ‘too much of a coincidence’ they both died after recent Covid infections, but was forced to apologise when Senator Kitching’s furious family told him she never contracted the virus. 

Senator Kitching was instead suffering from hyperthyroidism in the months before she died, although her symptoms were improving. 

Dr Nick Coatsworth has again unleashed at Dr Norman Swan over the debacle of the ABC pundit suggesting Covid may have contributed to a politician’s fatal heart attack when it emerged she’d never had the disease 

Daily Mail Australia then revealed on Thursday that although Dr Swan has not treated a patient since joining the ABC in 1982 he kept his medical registration because media work counts as ‘practice’ under medical board rules.

Dr Coatsworth was highly critical of Dr Swan after than ABC health guru’s mistake was revealed, and couldn’t resist another swipe this weekend.

‘An interesting week in medical media,’ he tweeted. 

‘At the end of the day, the only conclusion we can reach is that you can’t be “Australia’s most trusted doctor” if you haven’t seen a patient since the 1980s. 

‘The ABC may wish to reflect on that.’

Dr Swan has been the ABC's go-to authority on Covid since the beginning of the outbreak, despite his long absence from treating patients

Dr Swan has been the ABC’s go-to authority on Covid since the beginning of the outbreak, despite his long absence from treating patients

Dr Coatsworth at the time said Dr Swan wouldn’t have had to apologise if he had followed the medical maxim of not speculating on cases that aren’t yours.

‘You can’t go wrong if you just avoid making assumptions and speculating about causes of death, particularly when they were both so tragic,’ he told 2GB radio on Wednesday.

‘The lessons we should draw is that every senator should aspire to be like Kimberley Kitching, every young boy or girl who picks up a cricket ball should be like Shane Warne.

‘That’s all we should take out of that, the positive of their lives and that sort of speculation [from Dr Swan] should have no place in the Covid discourse.’

Dr Swan made the suggestion in the context of a new British study linking contracting the virus to a greater risk of heart attacks – up to 21 times soon after recovery, and 30 per cent and 50 per cent higher after six months.

Dr Coatsworth criticised Dr Swan for using outdated studies to push a panicky narrative around Covid.

The family of late Senator Kimberley Kitching (pictured) angrily refuted Dr Swan's speculation that her fatal heart attack could be Covid-related by saying she never had the virus

The family of late Senator Kimberley Kitching (pictured) angrily refuted Dr Swan’s speculation that her fatal heart attack could be Covid-related by saying she never had the virus

How Norman Swan maintains his medical  licence despite not practicing medicine

Medical practitioners must renew their registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency every year and practice medicine for either 152 hours in the previous year or 456 hours over three years.

Typically this would be time seeing patients, doing research, or administering a medical facility, but what counts as ‘practice’ is more broad.

AHPRA defines ‘practice’ as ‘any role, whether remunerated or not, in which the individual uses their skills and knowledge as a health practitioner in their profession’.

‘For the purposes of the board’s standards, practice is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care,’ the medical board’s regulations state.

‘It also includes using professional knowledge in a direct non-clinical relationship with clients, working in management, administration, education, research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that impact on safe, effective delivery of services in the profession.’

The AHPRA medical board confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that Dr Swan’s work on the ABC and in other media would satisfy the requirements.

Dr Coatsworth explained that while the study Swan was using to make his claims had been published recently, the data was from 2020 and conducted in a different era of the pandemic when the virus was more severe.

‘Why would Dr Swan at this point in the pandemic be bringing up a study that talks about increased clots in the arteries that could potentially be linked to a heart attack that was conducted in 2020,’ Dr Coatsworth said.

‘This was pre-vaccine, pre the omicron wave and pre the amount of hybrid immunity that we’ve got in the community.

‘It’s creating this concern with a study that was conducted in a different era of the pandemic.’

Daily Mail Australia answered subsequent questions about how Dr Swan keeps his licence without seeing patients, as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency definition of what counts as medical practice is broad.

‘Practice’ is ‘any role, whether remunerated or not, in which the individual uses their skills and knowledge as a health practitioner in their profession’.

‘For the purposes of the board’s standards, practice is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care,’ the medical board’s regulations state.

‘It also includes using professional knowledge in a direct non-clinical relationship with clients, working in management, administration, education, research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that impact on safe, effective delivery of services in the profession.’

The AHPRA medical board confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that Dr Swan’s work on the ABC and in other media would satisfy the requirements.

Dr Swan referred questions to the ABC, which confirmed he did not do any clinical or research work to maintain his licence.

‘For many years his area of practice has been medical journalism. His medical licence is assessed and approved on that basis and does not involve patient care, which he is always transparent about,’ it said.

Dr Swan also told Daily Mail Australia that Warne had several risk factors for heart disease and that a 'bit of extra inflammation from Covid could have tipped him over the edge'

Dr Swan also told Daily Mail Australia that Warne had several risk factors for heart disease and that a ‘bit of extra inflammation from Covid could have tipped him over the edge’

Dr Swan received an honorary medical doctorate from the University of Sydney in 2006, which listed the many major medical organisations he has consulted for.

‘Royal Australasian College of Physicians where he was a founding member of their Social Issues Committee; the National Health and Medical Research Council where he assisted with the development of their strategic research priorities,’ the citation read.

‘Major teaching hospitals and state and federal governments on specific policies, often in relation to evidence based medicine and workforce issues.’

Dr Swan was first registered with AHPRA on December 28, 1978, and his licence is valid through to September 30, 2023.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk