Flemish mayor breached professional and medical ethics, report says

Flemish mayor breached professional and medical ethics, report says
© Sint-Truiden

Details of the report on the activities when Sint-Truiden mayor Veerle Heeren jumped the queue for vaccination in March last year have begun leaking out.

Yesterday we reported that the document released to city council members by Audit Vlaanderen, the Flemish government’s official audit authority, has stated that Heeren made ‘an ethical error’ – based on a statement by her own local party, CD&V.

But now more details of the report have been reported by Trudocs, the website for local news in Sint-Truiden that originally broke the news of how the mayor used her position to allow herself, family and associates to jump the vaccination queue at a time when priority was being given to the elderly and people with medical complications.

According to Trudocs, once the news was released that Heeren had jumped the queue, she began to compile a dossier of evidence in her defence. That involved using her position again to obtain information from the medical dossier of some of those involved, which she then communicated to a private organisation preparing her defence.

That, the website argues, is a breach not only of her professional oath of confidentiality as mayor, but also of the secret of a person’s medical information.

Ironically, her defence case was only necessary because she had brought criminal charges against Trudocs for breach of confidentiality in revealing her activities in the first place.

It now appears, in black and white, that she herself was guilty of this offence. Several times even,” the website writes. In order to be able to prepare her defence during the city council meeting on 10 May, she had to e-mail various personal medical files to an external company. Trudocs will in any case investigate so as to file a criminal complaint against Heeren for violation of professional secrecy, collusion of officials and abuse of authority.”

The website points out the further irony of how Heeren, a former Flemish minister for public health, was regularly present in the vaccination centre, which is why she claims she became vaccinated – to use up spare doses at the end of the day.

However despite that, the auditors report, when questioned on the operation of a vaccination centre she appeared to know little to nothing. And in any case, using inside information to be able to send her entourage to be vaccinated in turn is a serious breach of medical confidentiality and ethics.

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