Lawsuits straining NSW Health staff’s response to pandemic
A third wave of litigation challenging the government’s response to the Covid pandemic is stretching key NSW Health staff’s ability to respond to the crisis, a court has heard.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard is facing yet another civil suit with a veteran paramedic and southern NSW deputy mayor launching action in the NSW Supreme Court.
John Larter is seeking to challenge rules which mandate that the state’s health workers must receive their first jab by September 30 and be fully vaccinated by November 30.
Mr Larter has launched an online fundraiser for his legal costs, which, as of Friday morning, had attracted over $45,000 worth of donations after just one day.
“I am fighting for this as I strongly believe no person should be discriminated against due to their medical status, and under no circumstances should they be excluded from the workplace due to that medical status,” he said.
Mr Hazzard and NSW Health are also fighting a number of other actions in the Federal and Supreme Courts.
Two weeks ago, the Federal Court dismissed an application brought by a group of religious leaders seeking exemptions from restrictions.
As well, four suits challenging various aspects of the public health orders were previously launched in the NSW Supreme Court.
Barrister Daniel Reynolds, acting for the NSW government, told Justice Robert Beech-Jones on Friday that one of the proceedings, brought by a member of the NSW Police mounted unit, had been dismissed.
But a further three matters are set to go to hearing later this month.
Two of them, brought by Al-Munir Kassam and Natasha Henry, are seeking to challenge rules which state that essential workers must receive their first vaccination by September 19 if they are to leave an LGA of concern for their jobs.
The court has previously heard that another man, Sergey Naumenko, is seeking a list of orders including that his family be exempt from “microchipping”.
Over a three-day hearing set to begin on September 30, it’s expected that 22 witnesses - including nine expert witnesses - will be called by Mr Kassam, Ms Henry and Mr Naumenko.
NSW Health lawyers on Friday received a summons from yet another plaintiff, Ibrahim Can, seeking a declaration that the public health orders are invalid.
Mr Reynolds told the court the government would need to put on its own witness evidence in all of the matters.
And, he said, that was placing strain on the senior public servants who would be called and their ability to do their jobs addressing the pandemic.
“The demands of the other litigation is already placing quite significant strain on the key witnesses who will be giving evidence in this matter, whose job it is to manage the public health response to the pandemic,” Mr Reynolds said.
Mr Reynolds opposed that Mr Larter’s matter should be heard alongside the other suits, noting they were challenging different parts of the public health order.
He also questioned why Mr Larter, who is based in Tumut in NSW’s Riverina region and is deputy mayor of the Snowy Valleys Council, was only now launching legal action when the order was announced four weeks ago.
“We don’t understand why they couldn’t have been brought much earlier and in that regard this is now the third wave of litigation,” Mr Reynolds said.
Justice Beech-Jones ordered that Mr Larter file an amended summons and witness evidence by next week before the matter returns to court on September 28.
Originally published as Lawsuits straining NSW Health staff’s response to pandemic
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails