High sick leave not docs’ fault
By LIM AI LEE
PETALING JAYA: Doctors should not be blamed if workers feign illness to get sick leave, said Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr David K. L. Quek.
“Some clever malingering patients can get away with falsely presenting themselves and getting medical chits or certificates (MCs), but the fault is not with the doctor but with the patient or worker,” he said.
Dr Quek was responding to a report in Sunday Star last week quoting the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) as saying that Malaysians have one of the highest MCs rate in the region, with sick leave costing employers RM1bil annually. MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan had claimed that workers faking illness to get sick leave had become a rampant practice. Dr Quek stressed that the MMA did not condone the giving of MCs to just anyone who requested for it. He, however, admitted it could be difficult to detect a malingerer as some illness had very little physical signs which could be documented.
“There is no machine or test which can find for every occasion, someone truly ill to the point of justifying sick leave or not 100% well.
“How can you assess whether the muscle or joint aches are true, or whether the headache is real? We have to trust the patient when they complain to us of their symptoms.”
Dr Quek suggested that human resources departments of every company kept in close touch with their panel doctors and alert them to the problematic worker who appeared to be taking more MCs than expected.
“If they can prove that some of these workers have been playing truant or abusing their sick leave, then these should be alerted to the panel doctors to make them more vigilant the next time.”
He felt it was unfair to blame doctors if they were more sympathetic than employers.
“Some doctors are more stingy on MCs while others more lenient, but this doesn’t mean that either is wrong. This is just how human beings are.
“Some of us would work through a bad cold or sprained shoulder or elbow and refuse to take time off, while another cannot bear the discomfort and would opt to rest at home and not work. We each have different thresholds for work ethics and commitment.”
He added that the principle of issuing any MC should be based on the doctor’s assessment of the need for the leave to recuperate. Citing his experience as a specialist, Dr Quek said he gave “extremely few” outpatient MCs. On black sheep in the profession who gave out MCs freely or sold them, Dr Quek said the number was very small.
“If any doctor is found to be selling MCs or abusing his or her privilege, then action can be taken by lodging a complaint with the Malaysian Medical Council.
“It is definitely less than one in 500 doctors and we have around 7,500 general practitioners.”
An online poll conducted by The Star, posing the question: “Do you agree with the MEF that many Malaysians feign illness to get MC?” received 33,950 votes as at 2.50pm yesterday.
About 78% of them disagreed with the MEF that many Malaysians feign illness to get MC, while 20% agreed. A mere 3% confessed that they had done it in the past.