October 14, 2009

City to employers: Don't demand doctor's notes for flu-like symptoms

Update: To clarify, health officials don't want people sick with the flu going to doctors' offices because it increases the risk of doctors, nurses and other patients getting sick. If you have the flu, there's not much a doctor can do for you, so it's just best to sit home and let the virus run its course. That wasn't clear in the original story.

Original post: Employers who demand doctor's notes for sick employees this winter may help spread the H1N1 flu virus, according to city health officials.

Wheaton-Franciscan All Saints is working with the Racine Health Department on a public information campaign to help contain the virus. Part of the campaign will tell employees with flu-like symptoms - fever over 100 degrees and a cough or sore throat - not to return to work until 24 hours after their fever breaks.

At the same time, the campaign will also try to convince employers not to demand employees get a note from a doctor if they're sick. Many employers require a note if someone is out sick for three days or more.

"All Saints is worried about employers sending people in for a pass," said Terri Hicks, director of community health programs for Health Department.

The city itself is reviewing its HR policies to address the coming flu season, Hicks said.

In response to the H1N1 epidemic, the city is distributing its first vaccinations this week. Paramedics will start administering the vaccines to each other this week, interim Public Health Administrator Marcia Fernholz told the Board of Health. They'll also target health department staff, school nurses, nursing home staff and day care workers.

The city now has 600 vaccinations to give out and has ordered another 3,300 vaccinations for mass flu clinics at the end of October or early November, Fernholz said. The Mount Pleasant/Caledonia Health Department and the Western Racine County Health Department also each ordered 3,300 vaccinations. All three departments are planning together to offer mass clinics with about 10,000 vaccines in October or November.

The good news for the city is the vaccines are paid for by the federal government. The feds are also supplying syringes, cotton swabs, though the city has to provide band aids. The H1N1 vaccines will be available for free to the public.

For the first 10,000 vaccines, health officials are recommending pregnant women get the vaccination because children under 6 months old cannot receive it. They are also recommending people between 6 months and 24 years old get the vaccination, as well as anyone between 25 and 64 with existing medical conditions that could be aggravated by the flu.

Eventually there will be enough H1N1 vaccines for everyone who wants it, said Michelle Breheim, epidemiologist with the city.

As for regular flu vaccines, the city has already given out most, if not all, of its supply. The city ordered an additional 100 doses, which should arrive in November. Walgreen's and other local providers have access to regular flu vaccines at prices comparable to what the city was offering.


  1. This article makes no sense at all. If the employee truly has the flu, they'll be able to stay home and get a letter from the Dr. if required. So where is the problem. It would seem to me the problem is when someone isn't really sick, takes off and then can not provide a Dr. letter. This article is crap.

  2. You may think this article is crap but then you can't be a professional, nor a logical thinker. This makes perfect sense with the flu taking over schools, many people out already. The majority of individuals working are responsible and trustworth workers.

  3. The problem is All Saints doesn't want a lot of people sick with flu piling into doctors' offices when there's not much they can do for them. Coming into the office simply increases the risk of flu spreading to doctors, nurses, other patients, etc.

  4. 2:20 You are very naive. Apparently you have not worked in a while. Many people will call in sick, go on vacation, go shopping or just lazy around. I know because I saw it. In over 30 years I took a couple sick days. There were people taking in upwards of 5 days a month. Dustin - people can still call there Dr. communicate their symptons and still get a note from the Dr. either faxed to the employer, emailed to the patient/employer or mailed. This article and process is still stupid.

  5. Anon 3:13

    If your Dr. is saying you are healthy without a thorough examination, you need to find a new Dr.

    It is totally irresponsible to diagnose someone over the phone.

  6. 3:22 - why don't you comprehend what I am saying. If you call in - give the Dr. your symptons, they can then give you a note. It's not diagnosing over the phone, it is just an "attempt" to keep people honest. I'm done with you.

  7. One more reason the city NEEDS a Human Resource Director who knows what the heck they are doing.

  8. All three departments are planning together to offer mass clinics with about 10,000 vaccines in October or November.

    So when will it be available for the rest of us? Will the drugstores have it also?

  9. Will the city then stop its own requirement for employees having to bring in a "sick note" from their doctors if they miss more than 3 or 4 days of work??

  10. The "Update" doesn't make much sense to me. People with the flu, employed or not, are going to seek out physicians if it gets so bad that they think they are in jeopardy. Keeping sick people away from doctors and nurses just seems like a contradiction to me. Besides, aren't the doctors and nurses inoculated against the flu? I can, however, understand the concern for other patients that may be infected. So, why not use some common sense and set up an isolated flu treatment area in the hospital with signs outside pointing the way to it.

    There are always going to be people that will take advantage and abuse the system, but most employers don't usually require a doctors slip until the person has been out for at least three days. Besides, how can a physician tell if a person really had the flu if he/she is over it and then comes in for a doctor's slip to return to work. This is really a non-issue and solely between the employer and employee

  11. I can smell abuse written all over this kind request. How sad. This is what happens when you have liberal leaders that thing everyone is kind, descent, and honest.

  12. So this is the future of health care. We don't want a bunch of sick people piling into the Drs. offices making them and their staff sick. This is disturbing. I disagree that it makes sense.

    If I pay money to my insurance why should I have to stay at home and self diagnose? Really is that what you all have planned when we sign up for national health care?

  13. The flu takes at least 7 days with or without an antibiotic. This article makes no sense. Stay home if you have the flu, but if your out over 3 days you need a note. The flu last longer than 3 days.

  14. Roots and Legends has excellent herbal remedies. He won't be afraid to see you.

  15. Most people know flu symptoms and know doctors can't do much for them. Going to the doctor with the flu is basically useless.

    There are exceptions, of course. Severe cases need to be addressed and people with risk factors, such as suppressed immune systems, need special care. So do babies and pregnant women.

    But most people who get flu this fall and winter won't see the doctor and will go to work while they're sick. That'll cause other people to get sick and spread the flu through the community.

    The hope is people will stay home a day after their fever breaks to minimize the chance of passing flu on to others.

    Employers would be wise to allow their employees time to recover because rushing back to work, and spreading the virus to others, leads to more sick days and lost production.

  16. The flu looks like several other problems. Pneumonia, sinus infection, bronchitis, allergies, strep throat on and on. Trusting the public to self diagnose is not smart. I don't care how many times they have had the flu. We need a lab test to be sure it is not something else.

    Why isn't the Drs. office staff being vaccinated against the flu helpful?

    What is next? We self diagnose our depression based on what those commercials tell us? We wouldn't want crazy people near patients in a waiting room. Maybe we can call the drug companies on a hotline. Then when a lot of people drop dead the government can spend billions on a study to find out it was the drug they were all on with no monitoring.

    This whole plan is utterly ridiculous. I bet the DR.s in Kenosha would be happy to see us. Switch Dr.s now.

  17. Dustin,

    All due respect, but if that is what All Saints is telling the public, that they cannot handle the traffic, that is INSANE! First, sick people are suppposed to go see doctors and nurses, not stay home undiagnosed or waiting until it is too late and they die.

    Second, with how much they charge they should be able to staff appropriately for situations such as these. On the other hand, have you ever had to take kids to see the doctor and have to deal with the numerous mistakes and billing screwup errors that they have? Its a joke Dustim. Send a request out to parent to email your thier examples... We need another hospital in Racine where there is competition.

  18. This whole thing is a big joke. Government already trying to run our health care. I have seen the future and it does not look good. We have freedom right now and they are trying to keep us from being able to get properly diagnosed for flu. Practically forcing us to get vaccinations. So much for freedom.