Some employers request that their appointed medical service providers issue fewer days of medical leave to their workers so as to avoid having to report workplace accidents ("Docs told to give injured workers enough leave" and "Injured workers tell stories of leave denied"; last Sunday).
A high incidence of workplace accidents may subject the employer to queries from the relevant authorities, resulting in severe consequences. For example, in the building and construction industry, such inquiries may result in stop-work orders that will affect the progress of projects.
Other possible reasons to avoid trouble with the authorities include minimising the negative impact on the employer's applications for new work passes and permits, or on its attractiveness to future hires.
Giving workers insufficient medical leave not only inhibits their recovery but also creates unnecessary anxiety as they would ponder how they can resume work given their less-than-fit state.
Such workers are usually later referred to public hospitals for treatment. This adds to the patient loads at already-strained public health-care institutions.
Medical service providers should not give workers insufficient medical leave as their core duty is to provide competent, compassionate and appropriate care to patients.
An ethical medical service provider should act as a constructive partner to the employer to ensure that the latter complies fully with local labour laws.
According to the Singapore Medical Council's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines, "the issuance of a medical certificate by a doctor carries with it the responsibility to ensure that the patient deserves it on proper medical grounds and that such grounds have been arrived at through good clinical assessment".
This principle has not changed. It is unfortunate that errant practices exist, but I believe those clinics are in the minority.
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