Government to scrutinise medical doctors after reports of ‘fake sick leave’ trend

Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst (Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)
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By Orville Williams

[email protected]

Despite its friendly relationship with the medical fraternity, particularly amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the government says it will be paying a closer eye on some medical doctors who have allegedly been performing in an inappropriate manner where medical assessment of public sector employees is concerned.

Lionel Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, made that declaration during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.

“We are very much aware that word has spread among government workers of several doctors who seem prepared to provide a certificate of sorts, excusing that person from work because of an illness.

“There’s a kind of a mill in which they’re operating [where] after a ten-minute interview with the doctor, they produce the certificate for [the worker]. So, there’s no diagnosis…they don’t take any blood and they don’t examine [the person] closely.”

Those comments follow aligned criticism of the workers in the post-Cabinet report, which stated that, “The Cabinet was made aware that several workers are abusing the sick leave provision included in the labour contract under which they are employed.”

It is not immediately clear whether the government’s observation is of unvaccinated employees who may be looking to, at least temporarily, bypass the recently-implemented vaccine mandate or of employees ‘abusing’ the system in a completely different context.

Efforts to gain clarity on this were unsuccessful up to press time.

What is clear, however, is that the government appears to be rather serious about reprimanding the medical doctors found to be involved in the practice, to the point where they could be prevented from practicing in the country at all.

“This is an abdication of their responsibility, not only to the worker, but also to their profession. It’s not acceptable, so where there’s evidence that that is occurring, you can be assured that we’ll do everything we possibly can to have those doctors removed from the list of doctors who can practice in Antigua.

“They must know that they’re facing a threat and will discontinue it, that’s the idea,” Hurst asserted.

Considering the weight of the implications surrounding the pandemic and the vaccine mandate for the government employees, the Chief of Staff noted further, that unlike similar instances in the past where abuses have been observed, more vigilance will be employed this time around.

“When the certificates arrive at the workplaces, those certificates from doctors that have been identified as possibly practicing it will undergo special scrutiny, so that it won’t be an occasional investigation like is the case with those who have been abusive in the past.

“It won’t be like that, because this time we’re on the lookout.”

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