MAM reaction - to allegations on Sickleave certification
17th December 2003
Sick Leave Certification by Doctors – Reaction to Press Reports
MAM notes with surprise the unofficial leaks to the press regarding sickness certificates. MAM has given its contribution in very constructive talks with Minister Dr. L.Gonzi on improvements of the sick leave certification system and in closing possible loop holes. The leaks of misleading data to the press are therefore inopportune and counter-productive. Such leaks to the press also go contrary to regulations and reflect badly on government officials responsible to maintain the confidentiality of such information.
MAM categorically rebuts allegations that doctors are abusing the sick leave system. It is also noteworthy that doctors themselves are the government employees with the lowest rate of sick leave.
· The computerization of the database of sick leave certificates is indeed an improvement. However MAM officials have pointed out that many of the analyses performed were inappropriate and unscientific and one could only interpret the results with a great caution.
· Patients recently discharged from hospital with diagnoses of such as heart attacks, major operations, or fractures are greatly inconvenienced by having to get certificates every week, and doctors are trying to reduce the hardship caused by insensitive bureaucrats.
· When a doctor issues a large number of certificates, this could simply mean that he is very busy, not that he is abusing. Indeed doctors with a high turnover are usually the most widely respected for their service and integrity.
· There are many chronically ill patients who have to wait for months for their invalidity board hearing, and it is for this reason that a patient may need 22 consecutive sick leave certificates.
· However, unfortunately, there are a few individuals who fake illness putting doctors in a difficult position. The fact that the vast majority of certificates cover 3 days or less shows that doctors in general are being very considerate and judicious.
· Although MAM insists that its members should abide by all laws and regulations, the processing of patient data for inland revenue purposes without the patient’s prior consent is unethical and could make the social security department officials liable in front of the law.
· Health centre doctors and doctors employed with private companies or agencies providing doctors to companies are paid a fixed salary. This clearly explains why a high number of certificates is not accompanied by a proportional increase in income from private practice.
MAM deplores unofficial leaks of incomplete data and unscientific conclusions that have not only put the medical profession in a bad light but have also embarrassed the government unnecessarily.
Dr Martin Balzan
The Medical Association of Malta.