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DOCTORS WARNED NOT TO ABET SICK LEAVE ABUSE

The territory's physicians have been asked to be "more responsible in the issuance of certificates of illnesses" for government workers.
A joint statement by Attorney General Iver Stridiron and Karen Andrews, chief labor negotiator, said they "have determined that certain physicians contribute to the problem" of a financially strapped government "by providing certificates of illness in a cursory and often irresponsible fashion."
Andrews said Thursday that she had sent a request to all department heads earlier this year asking them to cite their three biggest obstacles. "The one prevailing issue was abuse of the sick leave policy," she said.
It is a particularly difficult issue at a time when the government cannot hire more employees, she noted. "We have to have all our bodies," she said.
The problem is especially acute in the Education Department. In a 1996 series on education in the Daily News, investigative reporter Melvin Claxton said one in 10 teachers was absent every day. Andrews said that remains the case.
Government employees average four hours of sick leave in every 80-hour pay period, according to Andrews.
To claim sick pay after being absent three days or more, an employee must usually submit a doctor's certificate. However, Andrews said, a supervisor can request a certificate for fewer than three days' absence.
She said abusers typically are absent on Mondays or Fridays, thus extending their weekends, or consistently miss one or two days every pay period. "If they can pay $15 or $25 for a certificate, why should they care?" she said.
The joint statement said that in cases of excessive absenteeism or suspicious circumstances, doctors may be asked to support their certification in writing or may be called upon to testify about services rendered "in departmental, administrative or court proceedings."
Stridiron and Andrews issued the statement in the aftermath of the closing Monday and Tuesday of the Motor Vehicle Bureau on St. Thomas because its workers reportedly were ill.

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The territory's physicians have been asked to be "more responsible in the issuance of certificates of illnesses" for government workers.
A joint statement by Attorney General Iver Stridiron and Karen Andrews, chief labor negotiator, said they "have determined that certain physicians contribute to the problem" of a financially strapped government "by providing certificates of illness in a cursory and often irresponsible fashion."
Andrews said Thursday that she had sent a request to all department heads earlier this year asking them to cite their three biggest obstacles. "The one prevailing issue was abuse of the sick leave policy," she said.
It is a particularly difficult issue at a time when the government cannot hire more employees, she noted. "We have to have all our bodies," she said.
The problem is especially acute in the Education Department. In a 1996 series on education in the Daily News, investigative reporter Melvin Claxton said one in 10 teachers was absent every day. Andrews said that remains the case.
Government employees average four hours of sick leave in every 80-hour pay period, according to Andrews.
To claim sick pay after being absent three days or more, an employee must usually submit a doctor's certificate. However, Andrews said, a supervisor can request a certificate for fewer than three days' absence.
She said abusers typically are absent on Mondays or Fridays, thus extending their weekends, or consistently miss one or two days every pay period. "If they can pay $15 or $25 for a certificate, why should they care?" she said.
The joint statement said that in cases of excessive absenteeism or suspicious circumstances, doctors may be asked to support their certification in writing or may be called upon to testify about services rendered "in departmental, administrative or court proceedings."
Stridiron and Andrews issued the statement in the aftermath of the closing Monday and Tuesday of the Motor Vehicle Bureau on St. Thomas because its workers reportedly were ill.