PEI doctors happy to provide sick notes just to practise their handwriting

PEI doctors happy to provide sick notes just to practise their handwriting

Prince Edward Island — Physicians are reversing a trend set in 2015 by their colleagues in Nova Scotia and Ontario by encouraging patients to come in to get notes explaining their minor ailments to their employers.

It turns out, Island doctors simply want the opportunity to write something other than prescriptions. One Summerside physician, Emily Murphy, is going so far as to include her home address just in case HR departments have any followup questions.

“It gives me the chance to practise my handwriting,” Dr. Murphy said. “All day I scrawl these brief, sloppy prescriptions but it’s nice to write a real letter to someone. Just to reach out, you know?”

Dr. Murphy says she hasn’t received any letters or calls back from HR managers, but she hopes the trend of handwritten notes will catch on.

Currently, physicians on PEI charge up to $20 for sick notes to employers, a bill which, in most cases, is not reimbursed as part of companies’ health insurance plans. The provincial government also has no intention of covering doctor’s note fees, as they are not considered an essential service.

Our reporter approached a walk-in clinic patient, 29-year-old Ian Gallant of Summerside, who said that getting a sick note increased his wait time by about 10 minutes. “I’ve got a nasty cold,” he said, before blowing his nose. “But if I’m paying $20 for Blake — he’s the HR dude at Tims where I work — to understand why I opted to stay home rather than breathe my germs and drip snot into the coffee, then that’s worth it to me!”

Brittany Matheson of Health PEI said she hopes sick people aren’t going into clinics and possibly infecting people just to get these notes, but she realizes this could indeed be the case. “I think these people suffering various illnesses could avoid the fee and avoid infecting everyone else by simply pencilling in their sick days for weekends or vacation days,” she said. “It’s not that hard.”

We reached out to Tim Hortons HR manager Blake Anderson. “I do enjoy getting the handwritten notes from my employees’ physicians,” he said. “They really bring peace of mind that employees aren’t slacking off.

“However,” he paused, “don’t these needy docs know it’s a waste of my time and resources when they ask for a response? I don’t know about them, but my time is far too valuable for me to reply to every single piece of correspondence I get from doctors. I just hope they’re not offended when I don’t write or call back.”

Dr. Murphy said she’s not offended, but will continue to write personalized letters for any of her patients who don’t feel like going to work. “I’ve actually been taking a calligraphy class at night,” she reasoned. “I’m getting really good at it!”

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