KUALA LUMPUR: Here’s a “bitter pill” for your migraine, joint pains, backache or other ailments – if you are insured by the Social Security Organisation (Socso), the doctor can no longer prescribe unlimited medical leave.
Medical certificates (MCs) for those suffering from such pains will be capped at a maximum of six months.
Those who chalk up 180 days of medical leave will be referred to the primary medical board for permanent disability assessment.
The board will review the case and decide whether the employee should return to work upon expiry of the medical leave or be awarded permanent disability benefits.
The 180-day limit for medical leave is a new Socso regulation for injury and disability assessment that will be gazetted soon.
Socso discovered that 15% or about 9,300 of the 62,000 workers who received temporary disablement benefits so far were given medical leave of more than 200 days in a year.
A random Socso survey covering 321 workers from among those with more than 200 days of medical leave for work-related injuries found that 275 of them were given medical leave of one to two years.
Socso chief executive officer Dr Soh Chee Seng said recently that the survey also found an extreme case of one worker given MC for eight years, another for six years, eight for four to five years and 36 for three years.
Under the temporary disablement benefits, these workers on long medical leave are paid 80% of their monthly salary.
Socso paid out temporary disability benefits of RM71.1mil to 56,359 workers last year and RM61.9mil to 56,716 workers in 2003.
Socso will also remove from its panel doctors who give backdated MCs and those who issue MCs for non-employment related injuries.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said the new Socso regulation would minimise abuses of medical leave and benefits.
“Those with treatable ailments will be sent for rehabilitation therapy under Socso’s 'Return To Work' programme,” he said.
He added that untreatable cases would be given disability benefits.
Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the Socso statistics were disturbing.
Prolonged absence would not necessarily help a worker get well enough to return to work, he said.
He added that medical practitioners must be more discerning in assessing a worker's health or injuries.
“At the same time, employers will have to take steps to promote the early return to work of workers by providing alternative tasks to suit them until they fully recover,” Dr Teoh said.
“There have been anecdotal reports of employers being reluctant or finding it too troublesome to reassign workers to other jobs while they are in the process of recovery,” he added.
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