Pregnant women in Barbados should be given one year’s maternity leave.
That’s the position of President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Dr. Carlos Chase, who also described as a “barbaric” the rules which now require mothers to return to work a mere six weeks after giving birth.
Additionally, the prominent medical specialist also believes that employers should not be given certain medical information which could amount to betraying the confidence of the doctor-patient relationship.
The obstetrician/gynaecologist told the gathering that in the United Kingdom, Canada and some Scandinavian countries mothers enjoy this extended period following the birth of a child. He also drew attention to the fact that while the month is due back at work six weeks after giving birth, that the new-born baby’s first “shot” was usually scheduled eight weeks after delivery.
Chase raised these issues last night while participating in a panel discussion on the topic: Sick Leave — the Employers Plight vs The Employees Right at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
The BAMP head argued that even though employers insisted on having a copy of the National Insurance Certificate of the employee, the medical practitioner should not betray the confidence of his patient to his employer.
The doctor is caught between the employer and the employee, he said, and is dammed if “he does and dammed if he does not”.
Chase stressed that the issuing of a doctor’s certificate was an issue of confidentiality and he pointed out that a doctor must not divulge any medical information about his patient without the consent of his patient.
“Further, the medical practitioner should not indicate the specific nature of the patient’s illness by issuing the certificate to his employer over the duration of the patient’s time from work and the date of expected return to work,” Chase explained.
He stressed that the employer was not entitled to copies of the National Insurance Scheme medical certificate.
“It has become entrenched in the local system, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Chase said.
He suggested that medical practitioners should be using the codes according to the International Classification System of Diseases instead of identifying the diseases by the names familiar to the ordinary man or woman.
Such an approach, he added, would protect the identity of the patient while assisting in compiling statistics for future reference.
The president of BAMP argued that similarly, insurance claims forms should have codes written on them representing the patient’s confidential medical data.
Addressing the issue of the abuse of sick leave, Chase noted that the patient may have a complaint, but investigations do not support the claims, and cited back pain and whiplash as classic causes used by workers to stay away from work.
“For the most minor surgical procedures, some out-patient procedures, patients expect to get time off,” he added. “Minor office procedures which were designed and developed to have minimal time off or shortest recovery period, workers expect to have weeks off from work.
The veteran medical practitioner cited cases where a patient would visit his office and state that he was not at work last week and asked for a certificate so that he can protect his job. He argued that if he refused to accede to the patient’s request that person could become very violent.
“This is fundamentally wrong,” he said. “The doctor-patient relationship is based on absolute truth and trust. The doctor accepts whatever the patient complains of and the patient trusts the doctor will accurately diagnose his complaint and keep the information confidential.”†(NC)††