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'We're not your sick day police': Ottawa family doctors express frustration with employers requiring COVID sick notes

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Family physicians in the Ottawa area say they feel like the "sick day police" as they see an increase in patients testing positive for COVID-19 requesting a sick note to submit to their employer for time off.

In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Dr. Nicole Shadbolt said that the Ottawa Hospital is now requiring a note and form completed for any staff missing work for viral symptoms.

"Unnecessary added work for family docs. We're not your sick day police," Dr. Shadbolt said in the viral post.

The Ottawa Hospital tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that the hospital has required sick notes after a "certain number of days for a while."

"It allows hospitals to ensure staff are receiving active treatment and helps them support a safe and timely return to work," TOH spokesperson Michaela Schreiter said in an email. "I know we extended the number of days to six because of the way COVID often plays out."

In response to Dr. Shadbolt's tweet, emergency room doctor Dr. Atul Kapur noted the Ottawa Hospital has been requiring sick notes from employees for many years.

"Including sending many employees to the emergency department for unnecessary added work," Kapur said.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Carleton Place family physician Dr. Christine Tai said after a break from having to provide doctor's notes for illnesses during the first two years of the pandemic, doctors are starting to see an increase in requests.

"The usefulness of having family doctors providing the admin support to prove that people are unwell for mild viral illnesses that we're not intervening for is questionable," said Dr. Tai, who is the Ontario Medical Association District 8 Chair.

"Having family doctors policing sick days to prove that somebody is unwell at the time that they say for something where they should be tucked into bed with a bowl of a chicken soup is not all that helpful I would think.

"Family doctors are already extremely overwhelmed by everything else happening in the community."

Dr. Tai says the Ottawa Hospital is not the only large employer now requiring employees to require sick notes for COVID-19 illnesses.

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