Sick note attacks continue

pharmacist double checking prescription

Mainstream media appear to have removed an article reporting on its sending a well employee to a pharmacy for a sick note

Last week, News Corp published an article in which it quoted Innex Willox from the Australian Industry Group, who said that “some bosses would be sceptical of notes obtained from a chain store pharmacy”.

“Pharmacists are not doctors and the Fair Work Act makes no reference to them being appropriately qualified to issue medical certificates for the purposes of personal/carer’s leave entitlements,” Mr Willox said.

The original article was particularly critical of Chemist Warehouse’s offer of absence from work certificates being priced at $20.

At the same time, the Daily Mail condemned the practice overall, with one headline declaring “How you can BUY your next sick day without going to the doctor: Chemists now offer $20 medical certificates – and they’re being handed out ‘like headache tablets’.”

Following the publication of these original articles, News Corp sent an employee who was not sick to a pharmacy to see if she could obtain a certificate. Its outlets named a particular banner group.

The employee told the pharmacist that she was feeling “like how you feel before you get a cold” and asked for an absence from work certificate.

As of Tuesday 13 March, the article has been removed from News Corp sites.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 has weighed in on the debate with a clip named “Pharmacies now offering proof of illness for work sick days”. Pharmacies have been able to issue the certificates since the Fair Work Act was introduced in 2009.

“If you’re feeling a little off and can’t make it to work, sickies can be bought on the cheap from the local chemist,” says Seven.

“It’s perfectly legal, but there are concerns that not all bosses will accept them—and they could be putting you at risk of serious illness.”

Seven spoke to Shine Lawyers’ Christie Toy, who advised employees to find out what their workplace policy was on sick leave.

“What you might find is that the employer has set out when they do want to see a certificate from a doctor,” she said.

Pharmacist Marcus Langman told reporter Tiffany Warne that in his experience, people seeking absence from work forms “aren’t bludging,” Ms Warne reported.

The AMA’s Dr Chris Moy, however, questioned whether it was possible to properly assess a patient in a “busy shop” and said, “The question is, could the patient deteriorate after that point?

“We don’t support this.”

Following the publication of the original story last week, the Pharmacy Guild said the Australian Industry Group comments were “disappointing” and that community pharmacists take their responsibilities under the Fair Work Act seriously.

“The recognition of pharmacists as eligible signatories of such certificates saves many Australian workers time and money through the convenient location of pharmacies and the accessibility of pharmacists – usually available at short notice and without an appointment,” national president George Tambassis said last week.

Several AJP readers also commented on our coverage of the original article.

“AIG may be suspicious of such certificates but it is unfair they blame specifically CW rather than pharmacy, physio and others who can write such things,” wrote reader William.

“The doctors are trying to protect their domain so would eagerly support such comments to protect their income. At least the $20 patient paid certificate save the taxpayer a consultation fee.”

Fiquet suggested that pharmacy needs a PR campaign, “to explain what we are trained and qualified to do beyond labelling boxes”.

And Fred wrote that “I am a community pharmacist in a smaller town and work in close collaboration with our local doctors. The local doctors work really hard to try and see as many patients as they (safely!) can in a day and are happy about the fact that I can issue absence certificates within my professional capacity and scope.

“I will certainly refer to a medical practitioner if further assessment is needed.”

Related: When can I issue a sick note?

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  1. JimT

    The AMA’s Dr Chris Moy, however, questioned whether it was possible to properly assess a patient in a “busy shop” and said, “The question is, could the patient deteriorate after that point?
    Yes the patient could well deteriorate and that also goes for any consult in the pharmacy setting and in the Doctors setting AS WELL….

  2. Toby

    Why didn’t the media also send a fake patient, with fake symptoms (eg diarrhoea – unverifiable unless the doctor / pharmacist accompanies the ‘patient’ to the toilet) into a doctor’s surgery to obtain an unnecessary medical certificate? Answer: because the AMA and the surgery would SUE, and report it to the police. Just like pharmacy NEVER DOES.

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