Many (if not most) of us have had to deal with both the hassle and the embarrassment of going to the doctor for a freaking cold, simply because our employers required a doctor’s note for missing work due to illness. Instead of staying wrapped up in bed or on the couch, with plenty of water and warm liquids, and a box or three of tissues, we had to expose lots more people than necessary to our germs, and waste a lot of time, energy, and money, all to prove that we actually did need to miss work for a few days.
One doctor in Canada is fighting against that. She has instituted a policy in her office of requiring notes from employers stating that their employees must see her, and get a doctor’s note, before they’ll grant sick leave. She quite rightly states that requiring these notes is not only a waste of doctors’ time and resources, but also unnecessarily exposes people to germs. This is especially dangerous when patients in the waiting room suffer from conditions that make them more susceptible than usual to even the most minor of colds.
She has crafted her own note, which says:
As a business operator in Nova Scotia, I am asking for your support in helping to alleviate an unnecessary pressure on the health-care system. I am hoping you will consider revisiting your current absenteeism policy and remove the requirement for your employees to obtain a medical note for missed time from work.
This policy creates an unnecessary burden on the health-care system and also exposes seriously ill patients in my office to viruses that could cause detrimental consequences to their health. In most cases, the best remedy for a patient with an isolated illness (i.e., gastrointestinal virus or common cold) is to stay home, rest and drink fluids. Coming to a doctor’s office or an emergency room for a medical note does not complement their recovery.
If, for whatever reason, your business decides to continue to require a physician to authorize their employee’s absenteeism, I will require your employee to bring with them a written request from the organization for the medical note. Upon providing this service I will invoice your company $30.0 per medical note. This is standard practice when providing non-medical necessary services for third-party organizations.
While she’s in Canada, and this applies to Canada’s health system, it’s relevant here, too. The uninsured typically go to emergency rooms because they can’t afford to pay for an office visit out of pocket. When they can’t pay their ER bill, the cost gets shifted onto everyone else in the form of higher fees, higher insurance premiums, and even higher taxes in some cases.
Doctors have more important things to do than write silly doctor’s notes excusing us from work for colds and other minor ailments that don’t require a specific diagnosis, and have no treatment. Perhaps more doctors will follow this doctor’s example, and maybe find a way to force employers to come up with other ways of reducing absenteeism.