sick leave, sick leave abuse, abusing sick leave

Doctors Under Fire for Helping Patients Abuse Sick Leave

October 30, 2008 08:35 AM
by Emily Coakley
Recent scandals in the United States, the Middle East and Europe reveal a worldwide problem of doctors helping patients take unnecessary sick leave.

Stories of Fake Notes and Reports Abound

In Dubai, two doctors have lost their licenses after they “signed more than 1,000 sick notes each for civil servants without genuine reasons” reported UAE newspaper The National.

The notes allowed the employees to take their full 90 days of sick leave.

And in Israel, five doctors and two nurses were arrested and accused of “selling sick-leave notes to hundreds of soldiers,” reported Israeli daily Haaretz. More than 100 soldiers were detained and questioned in connection with the investigation.

Itzhak Hanoch, chief of undercover agents for the central unit of the Central District, told Haaretz, “During the investigation we trained eight military police investigators to serve as agents. They went to the clinic and told doctors that they wanted sick days even though they weren't ill, and offered to pay. We documented doctors giving out sick-leave notes for NIS 50 to NIS 150 per soldier, to anyone who asked.”

Some doctors in New York have come under fire after they allegedly wrote fake reports to help healthy retiring Long Island Rail Road workers successfully file for disability. One orthopedist testified that for $750, “he filled out the paperwork, usually identifying injuries involving the back, hips or knees and a lot of discomfort,” the Associated Press reported.

“It was clear to me that these patients saw this benefit as an entitlement. These patients said they were counseled on when and how to apply for benefits,” the doctor testified, according to AP.
In England, a Member of Parliament (MP) was criticized because he allegedly “worked for Japanese firm Tokai Tokyo while on sick pay from his £61,820-a-year job at Westminster,” reported The Daily Mirror.

Andrew Pelling was battling depression and claims he was on sick leave from both the Japanese firm and from Westminster Commons.

Related Topics: Sick leave rates fluctuate; expanding sick leave for all

For other people, taking sick leave is rare. A study published in the September 2004 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a trade journal, showed that within the European Union, the rate at which workers took sick leave varied widely. The study involved more than 20,000 people interviewed in 2000 in what were then the EU’s 15 countries.

According to the International Herald Tribune, “The conclusion of the study is that with few exceptions, northern Europeans called in sick much more often than southerners, and that men—yes, men—called in sick more often than women.”

In the United States, the city of Milwaukee has a proposal on its ballot to require all employers to offer paid sick leave. The mayor and business leaders oppose the measure, the Business Journal of Milwaukee reported last week. Mayor Tom Barrett said he feared the proposal “would put the city at an economic disadvantage.”

A grassroots effort by the group 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, petitioned to get the proposal on the ballot.

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