The Malta Independent 22 November 2019, Friday

Health Ministry introduces random house checks to verify sick leave

Gabriel Schembri Sunday, 14 February 2016, 10:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

All employees in the public health sector who call in sick for work may be subject to random house checks, according to a new policy established by the Energy and Health Ministry that will see doctors making random calls to sick employees to verify whether they are, in actual fact, unwell at home.

In a recent circular sent to all health sector employees, the Ministry’s Human Resources Division says that the Ministry has introduced a ‘Sick Leave Verification System’ that came into effect on 1 January.

The Ministry decided on taking such action after reaching an agreement with Medicare Services Ltd, which will be the new system’s service provider.

The circular states that that doctors will not be following up on all sick reports and, when they do, they will provide a white certificate (as opposed to the blue certificate issued by general practitioners), indicating the number of days determined for sick leave.

It goes on to say that the white certificate, when issued, will take precedence over those issued by GPs, and all employees are to ensure that their sick leave absence is regulated by the white certificate where applicable.

It also stipulates that an employee who calls in sick still has to make the arrangements with his or her personal GP to issue the standard blue certificate, which can be used if the Ministry’s appointed doctor does not make a personal visit. However, if the government-appointed doctor does come, it is the white certificate issued by the employer that will be the valid one.

In the meantime, UHM Voice of the Workers issued a letter to its members reminding them of their basic rights in this respect. It clarified that while the employer has the right to send a doctor of its choice to check if an employee is really at home sick, that doctor does not have the right to carry out a physical examination. Therefore, the person has the right to refuse a medical examination by the doctor sent by the employer.

The union pointed out that no one, not even the employer, can refuse a personal doctor’s certificate.  The only way a medical certificate can be refused is through the Medical Board, which can decide that a doctor has been guilty of malpractice by issuing a particular medical certificate, the UHM added.

Contacted yesterday, a UHM spokesman insisted that it was illegal for an employer to state which of the two certificates is valid or not, saying that the doctor-patient relationship is very personal and an individual has every right to refuse to be seen by another doctor.

This newspaper also attempted to contact Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar yesterday but he was unreachable.

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