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Abolish sick notes during coronavirus crisis, ask doctors

17:43 25/03/2020

Family doctors have had it with writing out sick notes to excuse patients from work who have flu-like symptoms. At this point, the normal flu season is over, so flu symptoms are being attributed to the coronavirus, particularly if a dry cough and fever are involved.

“The system of sick notes is sick,” wrote Jong Domus in an open letter to the Flemish and federal health ministers. Jong Domus is a group of Dutch-speaking doctors in Brussels. The group wants the requirement for patients to present a sick note to employers to be waived during the Covid-19 crisis. Further still, it asks that sick notes be abandoned in the future for three days of sick leave or fewer.

Some 1,600 doctors signed the open letter, claiming that the administration required of physicians is overwhelming. “At the end of a workday, the ink on our stamps is dry, and we trudge off home,” they wrote. “Surely this isn’t why we pursued this line of work with so much passion?”

The coronavirus weeks have only increased the paperwork. “Just eliminate the nonsense of sick notes for three or fewer days off. Pointless authorisations and red tape only hinder our provision of care and work to the disadvantage of patients who really need us.”

The members of Jong Domus are not the only ones complaining about doctor’s notes – required by most employers for more than one day of sick leave. Last week, a physician in a neighbourhood clinic in Antwerp called for them to be abolished during the corona crisis, as did political party PVDA.

Photo ©Anthony Dehez/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw