Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia doctor to charge employers for sick notes

Nova Scotia physician Ethel Cooper-Rosen is going to start charging employers $30 for sick notes, saying they put unnecessary pressure on the health-care system and expose other patients in her waiting room to viruses.

Dr. Ethel Cooper-Rosen says mandatory notes expose other patients to illness

Business organizations across Canada say sick days are a multimillion-dollar issue. In 2013, the average Canadian took 7.4 sick days. (iStock)

Nova Scotia physician Ethel Cooper-Rosen is going to start charging employers $30 for sick notes, saying they put unnecessary pressure on the health-care system and expose other patients in her waiting room to viruses.

Many employers and some universities require notes from doctors to verify that sick day policies aren't being abused.

The Dartmouth physician objects to patients coming into her office for the sole purpose of getting sick notes.

"We feel that this is inappropriate. Doctors Nova Scotia feels that this is inappropriate. Patients who have mild viral illnesses and have no reason to see the doctor, because really, the treatment for these illnesses is stay home and rest," she said.

Doctors Nova Scotia's Kevin Chapman says requiring a doctor's note for taking a sick day ties up access to the health-care system. (CBC)

"We are taking the position that it’s an unnecessary medical visit taking up our time, exposing patients in the waiting room to illnesses, and it shouldn't be part of the system."

Cooper-Rosen said she gets three to five requests for a doctor's note a week when she’s working in an urgent duty clinic. Doctors’ notes are not covered by Medical Services Insurance.

Stay home, get better

She said it’s standard procedure to charge third-party organizations for non-medical services.

"I have every right to charge for it.… We’re trying to clear up space for patients who are sick. Our duty clinics are very busy. We also don't want patients with these mild viral illnesses sitting in our offices with patients who are sick and they have compromised immune systems and can pick up these illnesses. We have babies in there who can pick up the illnesses. So we would like them to stay home," Cooper-Rosen said. 

In a note to employers explaining the $30 invoice, Cooper-Rosen asks them to revisit their absentee policy. She said many patients with viral illnesses wouldn’t even come to her office if their employer didn’t require a note.

She said there might be resistance from employers, but there needs to be trust in the workplace.

"If an employee said they are sick, their employer should probably trust that they are telling the truth if they have a good relationship with them," she said. "The patient doesn’t want to pay for the note and the employer generally doesn’t want to pay for the note."

Last year, Doctors Nova Scotia — the professional association representing physicians in the province — made a public plea to employers to stop requiring doctors' notes for sick employees.

On Monday, Doctors Nova Scotia spoke with CBC News and reiterated its stance.

“We don’t want patients to have to go to a doctor’s office to satisfy what is essentially an administrative requirement, because it ties up access,” said Kevin Chapman, the association's director of health policy and promotion.

In 2013, the average Nova Scotian took 8½ sick days, more than the national average of 7.4 days.