In terms of Rule 15(1) of the Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, a practitioner shall only grant a certificate of illness if such certificate contains the following information, namely:
- The name, address and qualification of the practitioner
- The name of the patient;
- The employment number of the patient (if applicable);
- The date and time of the examination;
- Whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds;
- A description of the illness, disorder or malady, with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medial practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit to work;
- Whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation;
- The exact period of recommended sick leave;
- The date of issuing of the certificate of illness; and
- A clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate which will be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.
When one considers clinic certificates or clinic notes in terms of Rule 15 (1)(j) above the medical practitioner is required to print his name and initials on the medical certificate in addition to his or her usual signature. As occurs on a daily basis, medical certificates issued by a clinic hospital or satellite clinic is normally found not to be signed by the registered medical practitioner. Every clinic and hospital has qualified medical practitioners in attendance, and any person who is ill is to be examined by such a person.
The consequence of Rule 15 (1)(j) above is that an examination by a nurse or other person who is not qualified to carry out examination and diagnoses is not acceptable. A certificate signed by a person other than a medical practitioner who is authorised to make such examination and diagnoses is equally unacceptable.
The resultant effect is that if the certificate from a clinic which contains an illegible signature and a stamp, it does not have to be accepted by the company. In such a case the company may insist that the rules as set out above are complied with and if not complied with the company may treat that period of illness as unpaid leave.
For more information concerning the implementation of correct sick control policies, the regulation thereof and the remedies available to employers for employees who abuse the system, contact Tracey Mouton at Goldberg & de Villiers on 041 501 9800, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org