x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Want to call in sick? You'll pay for it as new Dubai law comes into force today

Take our poll: A new decree means all employees in Dubai will have to pay money on top of the doctor’s consultation fee, which is usually about Dh50, even for a single day of sick leave.

DUBAI // Workers who want to take sick leave in the emirate will now have to pay Dh60 for a note from their doctor.

A decree that comes into force tomorrow means all employees in Dubai will have to pay that amount on top of the doctor’s consultation fee, which is usually about Dh50, even for a single day of sick leave.

Previously, only government employees had to pay a Dh50 charge for a note of sick leave but the new charge will affect everybody “regardless of where they are working or their social class”, said Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, head of clinical governance at Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

It is part of a series of measures being introduced tomorrow to prevent fraudulent abuse of sick leave.

The changes have met mixed reaction from medical staff and patients across the emirate.

Engineer Larry McGuiness, 31, described the new charge as unethical.

“I think it is ridiculous,” Mr McGuiness said. “I think it would be a massive deterrent to those lower-paid members of society to actually take sick leave.

“They will then go to work and spread their illness. I just do not think it is ethical to charge somebody to take sick leave.”

Mr McGuiness, who lives in Tecom, said only a few workers saw sick leave as a holiday.

The fee means everyone is being punished for those few who abuse the system, he said.

“There must be another way rather than charging money,” he said. “It is a tax on the sick.”

Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, director of health regulation at the DHA, said the Dh60 charge was to stop abuse.

“However, DHA is always open to suggestions and comments and we are currently reviewing the charges,” Dr Ibrahim said.

The other measures include a Dh5,000 fine for GPs caught giving out hand-written sick notes instead of using an online system.

A DHA investigation found some doctors were issuing fake sick notes for cash or to help family or friends, among other reasons.

But Dr Johannes Van Dijk, a general practitioner at Mediclinic Meadows, said he detested the idea.

“It shows distrust in doctors and that everyone is punished because of a few transgressors,” Dr Van Dijk said, stressing he was speaking for himself, not the clinic.

“Our administration is increased and patients have to wait a long time after being discharged to receive their letter.”

Dr Ibrahim said the new system would mean the DHA could find healthcare professionals and members of the public who tried to abuse the system.

Dr Ajit Kumar, a GP at the New Medical Centre in Dubai, said his workplace already used the electronic system and all hospitals across the emirate should adopt it.

“It is a good idea,” Dr Kumar said. “The issue of sick notes should always be done in a professional manner. This would increase accountability.”

Dr Khaliq Khan, a doctor at Ismail Medical Centre, said the changes would “stop bad activity”.

“Doctors will have to explain what they know,” Dr Khan said. “I think it is needed for the improvement of UAE health care.”

jbell@thenational.ae