So, a very long time since my last post. I’d reference my regular readers like Gerry over at ruralflyingdoc and apologise for the silence, but I’m not convinced there are any regulars out there anymore! A short one today, and a slight change in my normal tone and content.
Whilst some of this time has been spent filling my brain in preparation for the RACGP Fellowship Exams coming up on August 10th, I’ve also copped an unfortunate number of URTIs this year. In fact, I’ve burned through more than my available sick leave this year with a procession of viral maladies. (Those of you who were at GPRA’s BNL Conference at Parliament House in March may recall my husky, laryngitic tones) In all of these instances, I came down with clinical syndromes identical to the ones I’d been seeing en masse during my work as a GP. In fact, I can’t remember a single day off as a doctor when I haven’t had an illness that I’ve seen almost exclusively in patients rather than social contacts. Like many health professionals, I’ve enjoyed respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and impetigo in my professional pursuits.
Right now, my better half is missing her first few days in a brand new job. In the last couple of weeks she’s seen a procession of kiddies with hand, foot and mouth syndrome typical of Coxsackie and other echoviruses. We’ve got no kids (unwell or otherwise) ourselves, nor have we had any social contact with anyone unwell. With typical mouth and hand infectious lesions, she’s out for possibly the whole week.
Can you see where I’m going here?
Of course, this is being taken as sick leave. I’d hazard that most health care professionals do the same. But should it really be considered a work-related illness? If not for work, I can’t imagine the majority of these illnesses having existed. For all the self-insured GPs working as independent practitioners out there, rather than employees, this is a big issue – a day not at work means a day of lost income. In this regard, I’m lucky to be salaried.
Think about a different scenario – if a surgeon sustained a needlestick injury during an operation on a patient with Hepatitis C and contracted this infectious illness, it would be, without a doubt, considered a work cover issue. So what is different about other infectious agents? Is it too much red tape and bother for a short illness? Is there stigma associated with claiming Workcover? Or is there a line somewhere that defines when an illness like this moves from the everyday and accepted, to a work-related malady?
Compo, I say! Would love to hear your thoughts.