The Times, PBS - new allegations on sickleave certification - 17/12/2003

Clampdown on sickness certificates
Jesmond Bonello

The government has sent "warning letters" to 200 doctors for issuing an excessive number of sickness certificates to certain patients for the same condition.

Sources close to the government said the practice was revealed in an exercise carried out by the Ministry for Social Policy.

"One particular doctor issued more than 3,500 sickness certificates in eight months. The doctors are being warned. If the pattern persists, the government will take action," the sources said.

They said the government had also analysed the income declarations submitted by medical doctors.

"The findings are quite incredible. They reveal that a significant number of GPs, especially those who have issued such an alarming number of sickness certificates, are declaring very little income.

"Figures obtained by the government, which have also been shown to officials of the Malta Medical Association, show that between them these doctors issued more than 170,000 sickness certificates in eight months. Over 90,000 of the certificates were issued to employees in the private sector and about 80,000 certificates covered public service employees."

Four of the 200 doctors issued more than 2,000 sickness certificates each.

"One particular doctor issued 22 consecutive certificates to the same person for the same condition."

The sources said the data also showed that the number of sickness certificates peaked in the hunting season.

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