Doctors hope employers will adjust sick note policies to, among other things, protect vulnerable patients. File photo.

South Cariboo doctors to bill employers for requesting sick notes

“This cost should be covered by the employer (not the patient or the doctor)”

Family physicians in the South Cariboo will require a written request from employers in order to supply a sick note and may subsequently bill employers $43.90 for the requested sick note, according to a letter sent out on behalf of local family physicians.

“If your employer requires a sick note for an illness that would not normally require a visit to your GP, it means you need to visit our offices, walk-in clinics, and emergency departments to obtain one. This can result in germs being spread to pregnant women, cancer patients, elderly people, and other immunocompromised individuals, all of whom are vulnerable to communicable diseases. Sick note appointments also increase doctors’ workload, taking valuable appointment time away from patients who require care urgently.”

The letter notes that non-medically necessary sick notes and return to work requests are non-insured services, meaning they are not covered by the Medical Services Plan.

“We recognize that our patients are not at fault for visiting our offices when their employer requests a sick note. That’s why doctors in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake are undertaking a campaign— including posters and letters to local businesses—to help employers understand the impact of sick note policies and encourage them to change their approach,” the letter states. “The recommendation from Doctors of BC fee guide is to bill $43.90 for these services. Our physicians stand with Doctors of BC in advocating that this cost should be covered by the employer (not the patient or the doctor).”

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) calls the policy of requiring employees who call in sick to request a doctor’s sick note a public health risk, according to the letter. It further adds that an Ipsos Reid public opinion poll undertaken by the CMA on this subject, 83 per cent of respondents said they would likely come to work when ill if their employer required a sick note rather than going to a health care provider to get a note.

“This, of course, puts their coworkers at increased risk of contracting illnesses, causing more strain on the health care system and resulting in even more potential employee absences.”

The letter concludes by stating that changes to B.C.’s employment legislation may be coming in the future through the BC Law Institute’s Employment Standards Act Reform Project.

“Until such change occurs, we hope local employers will consider adjusting their absenteeism policies to help protect vulnerable patients, maintain a healthy workforce, reduce the unnecessary burden on our health care system, and help improve access to care for patients in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake.”

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