The Ministry of Health has launched an investigation into the alleged proliferation of physicians selling fraudulent sick slips to people seeking to fake illnesses for time off, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands revealed yesterday.
Sands said the discovery was made when the service was being promoted in a WhatsApp group.
“We discovered that there was an advertisement circulating on social media that posted an offer for sick time, at a cost of $40, and included in that was a telephone number,” he said.
“We inquired as to whether or not it was real and did some investigations and it turns out that it indeed is real.
“Now, obviously, we’re not terribly keen on creating any premature legal pronouncement, except to say that this is illegal, not only for the physician, but for anybody who attempts to defraud their employer with such a sick slip.
“This is theft, and is punishable by law.”
Sands explained that based on preliminary investigations, just the sick slips are being sold, so there is no requirement for an examination to be conducted. Interested customers simply state the number of days they would like off from work and pay a prorated fee.
“I get it. People want to go to Miami or want to go to Fort Lauderdale and go shopping, but it’s against the law,” he said.
“And we are not prepared, since physicians fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, to give this a bligh. So, a word to the wise ought to be sufficient. We are on to you and we plan to take you down.”
He continued, “We believe that this is something that should generate outrage from the entire community.
“It has implications for the private sector and the cost of doing business. It has implications for national insurance and sick benefits. It has implications for productivity, but it is [also] against the law. It is in direct violation of the Medical Act 2014.”
In a warning to employers, Sands said companies should look out for peculiar patterns, or a particular physician whose name comes up repeatedly, as red flags.
“If there seems to be some inconsistencies then the human resource department should take a second look,” he continued.
“Bear in mind that the issue of sick time requiring sick slips is something that is enshrined in a number of industrial agreements and also protected by our labor laws.
“Abuse of the system is certainly nothing new. The law prescribes a response and the reason why I’m raising it is we are now seeing a proliferation of this type of behavior and, so, a word to the wise is sufficient.
“If you’re a clinician and you are involved in the practice of generating fraudulent sick slips, cease and desist.
“If you are an individual who is seeking to have an individual physician generate a sick slip and you are not ill, you should cease and desist.
“The implications are significant and the disciplinary action may be a lot worse than you think.”
The matter is still under active investigation.
Sands said officials have identified one of the alleged culprits and plans to take it “to the fullest extent of the law and follow the legal steps required”.