Nov 10, 2021

Perth ‘anti-vax’ nurse charged with fraud after allegedly faking teenager’s COVID vaccine

Perth nurse charged with fraud (1)
Photo: 9News.

Speaking to court staff, the police prosecutor said they became aware of up to 25 people arriving at the clinic specifically requesting for registered nurse Christina Hartmann Benz. 

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the police prosecutor further detailed how after patients asked for the nurse by name, she commenced closing the door to the room, claiming privacy reasons, and highlighted that it was “clearly an anti-vaccination stance”.

Ms Hartmann Benz, 51, is alleged to have asked if she could be permitted to administer COVID vaccines to family and friends at a private medical centre located in Victoria Park on the weekend in Western Australia.

She has since been granted bail with stringent conditions in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday.   

The clinic and its owner, Sean Stevens, have told the court that concerns were raised and that Stevens determined he would remain and observe Benz administering the vaccine. 

A 15-year-old and his father are alleged to have requested Ms Hartmann Benz specifically at 11.25am on Sunday, after the prosecutor outlined that the nurse at first opposed Dr Stevens observing, but he insisted on remaining. 

It is alleged the nurse was observed filling the syringe with the vaccine dose and inserting it into the teenager’s arm, but not injecting or administering it. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the court was told that Ms Hartmann Benz attempted to block Dr Stevens’ view while “faking” the process. 

The clinic told of how they instantly called police after Ms Hartmann Benz allegedly removed the needle from the teenager’s arm, disposed of the needle with the dose still inside, and stated that she had administered the vaccine. 

Police allege that the nurse recorded that the teenager had been administered with the vaccine and she allegedly wrote down that another member of staff had administered the dose.  

Court hears nurse’s actions were “premeditated”

The number of persons requesting Nurse Hartmann Benz directly suggests premeditation, a police prosecutor told the court. 

“I would say it can be inferred there’s some level of coordination.”

Police have also outlined that the nurse also worked at a clinic in Rockingham. 

The prosecutor added, “It’s premeditated … it shows a certain level of sophistication to it.”

Detailing further events, the prosecutor told the court the father of the teenage child returned to the clinic stating his son was displaying negative symptoms to the vaccine, so as to dissuade suspicion of the nurse. 

Additional charges are likely, said the police prosecutor. 

Ms Hartmann Benz, under current stringent bail conditions, is not permitted to work as a registered nurse or in any relation to the administering of COVID-19 vaccines. 

The bail conditions state she is not permitted to be in contact with any person who was a patient or prior colleague at the clinics of her employment. Exceptions include her spouse and parents, who were said to be among her patients. 

Severe penalties indicated by health minister

In response to this behaviour, WA Health Minister Roger Cook has indicated there will be severe penalties. 

Commenting to the ABC he said, “We’re on the lookout for any of this sort of behaviour, and if it’s going on, it’s just despicable and has to stop.”

Mr Cook continued, “And obviously AHPRA, the professional regulatory authority, will come down hard on any nurse that is abusing their role.

In a recent statement, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said it is very troubled to hear of the alleged incident involving the registered nurse. The RACGP confirmed that it is assisting the GP and practice involved. 

The organisation said, “The WA Police are investigating, and we stand ready to support their investigation, but we cannot comment about the details of the case while the investigations are ongoing.”

Furthermore, RACGP detailed that GPs and practice teams throughout Australia are diligently working to administer COVID-19 vaccines to protect all. 

ABC Radio Perth was told by Mark Duncan-Smith, the WA President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), that it is clear the incident is being given the concern and attention it deserves. 

Commenting on the radio program, Dr Duncan-Smith said it would be “bizarre” for professional healthcare personnel to withhold administering a vaccine to a patient. 

If the allegations are proven, he believes the nurse would be formally reported to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency – Australia’s health regulator. 

AHPRA records show that Ms Hartmann Benz has been a registered nurse for 30 years, commencing in 1991. 

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