A new online system for monitoring sick leave and issuing certificates has been launched by Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH), which is working to tackle fraud and improve tracking of illnesses.
The Central Government Electronic Sick Leave System, known as E-Jaza, is being piloted with doctors working in the private sector who are using the new system alongside existing paper-based methods.
From Dec. 30, it will become mandatory for all private doctors in Qatar to use only the new system when issuing sick leave certificates, the SCH said in a circular issued by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP).
These certificates are required by some employers and schools here to prove that residents who take leave are indeed sick.
At the moment, doctors working in the state sector are not included in the new program.
Because the e-sick leave system is linked to a national database, doctors would ideally be deterred from issuing fake certificates or signing off patients for longer than needed.
The database would, for example, make it possible for healthcare professionals to see if a patient has requested a sick leave certificate from another colleague.
Under the manual system, one doctor would have no way of knowing if another doctor had already signed off a patient as being ill.
Acting CEO of QCHP, Dr. Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, told the Peninsula:
“The idea behind the electronic system is to unify and standardize sick leave certificates in the country and eliminate fake certificates. There have been numerous complaints from employers about misuse of sick leave by their staff through fraudulent medical certificates issued by some doctors.”
The system would also help authorities to more accurately track patterns of illness in the country, and would show the number of certificates issued by each doctor.
Finally, it would highlight patients who apply for a higher-than-average amount of sick leave, Al Khanji said. He did not specify what would constitute this number, though.
The new system would also prevent doctors from approving leave for patients with illnesses which are outside their scope of expertise. Eventually, patients and employers would be able to receive sick leave certificates by email, Al Khanji added.
A worker’s right to sick leave is covered under Qatar’s Labor Law No 14 of 2004.
Under Article 82, employees who have worked for a company for at least three months can apply for sick leave.
Illness of up to two weeks should be covered with full pay, while a worker can have a further four weeks of sick leave on half-pay.
For more than six weeks, an employer is required to grant the worker leave but on an unpaid basis. An employee who is medically deemed unfit to return to work after 12 weeks may have his contract terminated.
In another attempt to tighten regulations surrounding doctors, the SCH has reminded physicians that they are not allowed to accept gifts other than samples from medical reps of pharmaceutical companies.
Doctors found breaking the rule face penalties, including an official warning and the suspension of their practicing license, the Qatar Tribune reports from local Arabic daily Al Raya.
Meanwhile, last month, the Supreme Council for Education (SEC) ruled that pupils, teachers and admin staff in independent (state-run) schools could only get sick notes issued by doctors working for Hamad Medical Corp., public hospitals and primary health care centers, the Peninsula reported.
The move to ban notes from private doctors was an attempt to tackle reports of false certificates, which affect schools’ performance, the newspaper added.
The SCH has previously tried to take action against rogue doctors. In 2011, the medical authority blacklisted several licensed private doctors for issuing fake sick leave certificates to students and government employees.
They were permanently banned from working in Qatar and the licenses of the clinics where they employed were revoked by the SCH Permanent Licensing Committee.