Ekurhuleni health practitioners have noted with concern an increasing number of patients visiting the City’s health facilities requesting sick notes. A sick note may only be issued in exceptional cases by a doctor, not a nurse, as a doctor is the only medical practitioner with the necessary authority in a clinic to issue sick notes. Health practitioners at the City’s clinics issue clinic attendance letters which are not sick notes, and other patients resort to altering the clinic attendance letters to forge sick notes.

A concerned employer visited one of the City’s health facilities with a batch of what their employees presented to be sick notes from the clinic to verify their legitimacy. Upon investigation, it was discovered that they were clinic attendance letters forged into sick notes.

Falsification/altering of documents, including a medical certificate, is a dismissible misconduct in the workplace and a criminal offence punishable by a court of law.

Explaining what the clinic attendance letter is for, Head of Department (HOD) for Health and Social Development, Dr. Gilbert Motlatla states that a clinic attendance letter does not give a patient permission to be off sick but is rather a confirmation that they visited a particular health facility.

“A clinic attendance letter only confirms that a patient was indeed at the clinic and is mostly given to patients on chronic medication who would ideally spend an hour or two at the clinic to collect their repeat medication or have an appointment.

“In some instances, some employers need the letter hence healthcare workers also indicate the time the patient left the health facility which is also recorded on the clinic database. However, in exceptional cases, a sick note may be issued to a patient after seeing a doctor who is the only practitioner with authority to issue one,” concludes Dr. Motlatla.

A medical certificate or sick leave cannot be used for routine check-ups, examinations, medical tests, collection of medication from a pharmacy or appointments with other medical practitioners.

The clinic attendance letter or medical certificate is only issued to patients, and not the persons accompanying them.