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UPDATE: Doctor Notes Provided For Protesting Teachers

UPDATED Thursday, April 5, 2012 --- 3:55p .m.

Records: UW disciplined 20 docs over sick notes

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Newly released records show the University of Wisconsin-Madison's medical school disciplined 20 doctors for writing sick notes for protesters during last years' labor demonstrations at the state Capitol.

Records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/I8PYDR) and the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/HYOOsJ) on Thursday show 11 doctors were docked pay between the amounts of $500 and $4,001 and had to attend ethics training.

Nine others were residents, or doctors-in-training. They were given written reprimands and also had to attend ethics training.

All the doctors were warned that further violations could result in termination.

The records show most of the doctors insisted they had acted properly, saying they thought they were helping public employees under stress.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, January 27, 2012 --- 8:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Madison School District has released additional sick notes given to Capitol protesters last year which show two more doctors provided the excuses the district deemed to be fraudulent.

Fifteen doctors who signed the notes have not faced sanctions from the state Medical Examining Board. The notes were written after hundreds of teachers called in sick last February, closing schools for four days. School district officials required the absent employees to provide notes documenting a doctor visit. The district docked pay from employees who didn't have a legitimate excuse. The protests erupted after Gov. Scott Walker proposed cutting collective bargaining rights for most state workers.

The State Journal (http://bit.ly/wCiswO ) says a board committee plans to decide next month whether to investigate additional doctors.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Saturday, December 17, 2011 --- 4:05p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A newspaper investigation has found that at least 10 doctors not previously disciplined by the state signed sick notes for Madison School District employees that the district considered fraudulent.

The notes were written amid Capitol protests earlier this year. The district released the sick note records Friday as part of a legal settlement with the State Journal.

The newspaper analysis (http://bit.ly/vpui44 ) shows that school employees sought excused absences for everything from the illness of a child to laryngitis and stress "from current governmental activities."

The 10 additional doctors identified in the records, like some of the seven doctors previously reprimanded, used sick note form letters listing badgerdoctors(at)gmail.com as their contact information.

The district cited that as grounds for declaring all notes from those doctors as fraudulent.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 16, 2011 --- 2:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Medical Examining Board has reprimanded seven doctors who wrote sick notes for protesters to cover their presence at last spring's massive protests against Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining law.

Dr. Sujatha Kailas, the board's chairwoman, said in a statement Wednesday the board couldn't determine what kind of evaluation the doctors performed on the protesters to justify the excuses.

The board also issued warnings to two other physicians who wrote notes for protesters telling them they could face formal discipline if they do it again.

The Wisconsin Medical Society has criticized the doctors, saying issuing the excuses threatens public trust in the medical profession.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.

Here is the press release from the Department of Safety and Professional Services:

The Medical Examining Board (MEB) today took action against nine physicians who wrote medical excuses for individuals attending rallies at the State Capitol in February. The excuses issued to some of the individuals were later used in an attempt to excuse themselves from absences at school or work.

The investigation into the actions of these seven individuals clearly indicated there were deficiencies in record keeping by the physicians involved. “There was no way to determine what kind of evaluation was actually made of an individual before these physicians issued their medical excuses,” said Dr. Sujatha Kailas, Chair of the Medical Examining Board.

The MEB issued formal reprimands against seven of the physicians involved and ordered that they each take courses in medical record keeping. “The Board action today holds these physicians accountable for their very public actions,” said Dr. Kailas who noted that these physicians also were subject to disciplinary action from their respective employers. The Board issued Administrative Warnings against the other two physicians, putting them on notice that their conduct could result in formal disciplinary action if repeated.

The Board’s action followed an extensive fact-finding process conducted for the MEB by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) which received hundreds of contacts from individuals in February expressing concern about physicians inappropriately writing medical excuses for those attending rallies at the Capitol.

DSPS and the independent MEB are charged with licensing qualified, competent physicians and enforcing discipline against physicians whose practice is substandard.

Copies of the Board’s disciplinary orders against the seven physicians may be accessed by visiting www.dsps.wi.gov

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UPDATED Sunday, August 28, 2011 --- 2:44 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Six months after some doctors at the University of Wisconsin wrote sick notes for opponents of Gov. Scott Walker's plan to limit public sector collective bargaining, the school hasn't finished disciplining the doctors.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/pLNWfO) the UW School of Medicine and Public Health denied the newspaper's request for records on the investigation, saying a hearing for one doctors has yet to be held.

The medical school reviewed 22 doctors who were said to have been involved in giving medical excuses to protesters for their absences from work or school.

University attorney Brian Vaughan told the newspaper at least a dozen doctors received disciplinary action in late April or early May. He said he wasn't able to provide an exact tally. He said one appeal remains pending.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, April 29, 2011 --- 2:55 p.m.

From the Madison School District:
Friday, April 29, 2011

The Madison Metropolitan School District has now calculated the data relating to staff absences that led to the closing of MMSD schools on February 16, 17, 18 and 21.

• A total of 1,769 persons in the teaching units (“teachers”) incurred unpaid time during these four days. Unpaid time for these teachers ranged from a portion of one day up to four full days.

The number of persons in the MMSD teaching units is 2,655. Thus, 66.6% of teachers incurred unpaid time.

• In the four February days, there were a total of 3,902 unpaid days. These are days, not persons. Thus, for example, if a teacher was scheduled to work half a day on February 16 and did not report for work and did not have a valid excuse, this counts here as 0.5 of an unpaid day.

Unpaid days per day:
Wednesday, February 16 1,093 unpaid days
Thursday, February 17 1,115 unpaid days
Friday, February 18 946 unpaid days
Monday, February 21 748 unpaid days
Total 3,902

There are 2,541 FTEs (full-time equivalents) in the MMSD teacher units. Thus, for February 16, the unauthorized absentee rate was 43% (1,093 ÷ 2,541).

• A total of 84 MMSD teachers submitted fraudulent personal illness excuses. Of those, 46 teachers rescinded their submissions. As a result, 38 teachers have been suspended. It was previously agreed that suspensions would be “time served”, meaning no additional suspension time will be lost.

“These tabulations detail the significant staff absences that the Madison School District experienced on February 16, 17, 18 and 21, and validate our decision to close our schools on each of the four days.”

“We realize the challenges that our students’ families experienced as a result of these school closings, so we appreciate that we have been able to return since then to normal school schedules and that students have returned to advancing their learning through the work of our excellent staff members.”

Superintendent Dan Nerad
The Madison School District has no further comment on this data.

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 26, 2011 --- 3:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The University of Wisconsin says it will take action against its doctors who gave out sick notes allowing union supporters to protest.

A statement from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health [which you can read below] says action could range from written reprimands or docked pay and loss of leadership positions. UW interviewed 22 doctors and cleared some of any involvement in the incident. University officials did not specify how many and said they would not comment

The doctors handed out sick notes to union supporters so they could protest against Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill on Feb. 19. Many were teachers who could be disciplined for missing work without a legitimate excuse.

The Medical Examining Board and state Department of Licensing and Regulation are also investigating the doctors.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 26, 2011 --- 2:56 p.m.

Statement from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health:

April 26, 2011

UW to take action on physicians who wrote medical-excuse notes at Capitol

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has completed its review regarding University of Wisconsin physicians who provided medical-excuse notes at the Wisconsin State Capitol in February, according to the dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

During a large protest gathering at the Capitol on Feb. 19, a number of doctors offered notes providing a “medical excuse” for the person’s absence from work or school. Some of the activity was recorded and made available to media outlets. Officials at UW SMPH have stated that these physicians were acting on their own without the knowledge or approval of the School.

Shortly after the incident, Dean Robert Golden of the UW SMPH appointed a committee to investigate the matter and determine if work rules and/or professional ethics were violated. (The State Medical Examining Board also has investigations underway on this matter. Each physician is responsible for his or her own legal representation before the board. UW SMPH will fully comply with any actions taken by the Medical Examining Board.)

The school reviewed the case of every physician whose name was provided, from a variety of sources. Of the 22 UW physicians who were reviewed, the school found that several individuals who were said to have participated in the event had not in fact done so.

Among the physicians who were found to have been involved, the school’s review found that the nature and extent of involvement varied widely. Personnel action will be based on the specific nature of the offense and the level of the physician’s involvement. The consequences range from written reprimand to loss of pay and leadership position.

The school will not comment on individual cases. (Our practice of not commenting publicly on specific disciplinary actions is consistent with state law governing the confidentiality of public-employee records in both the public-records law and section 230 of Wisconsin statutes. Hence, the names of those involved and the actions taken will not be disclosed.)

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 20, 2011 --- 3:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State officials say they're investigating eight people who allegedly wrote medical excuses for protesters attending rallies at the Capitol in February.

The investigations are being conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing and the Medical Examining Board.

The licensing department said Wednesday it received complaints about 11 people. The department says it decided not to investigate three of those people after concluding that no violations had occurred.

At least one physician from the University of Wisconsin medical school offered doctors' notes to protesters. Many of those demonstrators were teachers whose districts warned them they could face disciplinary action for an unexcused absence unless they had prior approval or a doctor's note.

The demonstrators were protesting Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 20, 2011 --- 3:00 p.m.

Release from the Department of Regulation and Licensing:

Update on Investigation of Medical Excuses Issued at Capitol Rallies

The Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL) and the Medical Examining Board (MEB) have opened investigations involving eight individuals who allegedly wrote medical excuses for individuals attending rallies at the Capitol in February.

Based on information provided by various complainants, DRL identified 11 people who were asked to provide an explanation to the department about their activities at the Capitol. Based on the complaints and the information received by DRL, a screening panel consisting of three members of the MEB has decided to open investigations on eight individuals. Investigations were not opened as to the other three individuals because the panel concluded no violations had occurred.

A more extensive fact-finding process will now occur on the cases which have been opened to determine if any violations of law occurred. Recommendations will be made at the end of each investigation as to whether disciplinary action should be pursued.

The DRL and MEB are charged with licensing qualified, competent physicians and enforcing discipline against physicians whose practice is substandard.

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UPDATED Saturday, March 12, 2011 --- 3:15 p.m.

Doctors notes prompt investigation in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Medical licensing authorities in Wisconsin are looking into allegations that doctors handed out medical excuse notes to protesters in Madison without examining them.

The state Department of Regulation and Licensing says it's asking for more information from nine doctors and two unlicensed people. They have until March 21 to provide more information. Their responses will go to the separate Medical Examining Board, which will then decide whether to open an investigation.

The licensing department said on Friday that 64 people complained about the notes. So many teachers called in sick during protests in Madison last month that some districts had to cancel school. Penalties for doctors could include reprimands, or licensing limits, suspension, or revocation.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 23, 2011 --- 12:50 p.m.

Statement from Dean Robert Golden, MD, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Feb. 23, 2011

The faculty and staff of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health appreciate and share the many concerns raised regarding the reports of ‘medical excuse’ notes provided by doctors to protesters at the Capitol on Saturday, February 19. Apparently the group of doctors included a small number of UW physicians who were acting completely on their own, without the knowledge or approval of the School.

The School has launched a formal investigation of the UW physicians involved to determine if work rules and/or professional ethics have been violated, to recommend institutional responses to any such violations, and to recommend potential processes to prevent the recurrence of any similar violations in the future. I have directed the investigation committee to complete their work and report back to me their findings and recommendations as soon as possible. As always, we will follow the established personnel policies of the University of Wisconsin.

We are very concerned that some recent reports have incorrectly linked to these activities in question a few UW physicians whom we know were not involved. Among the physicians wrongly accused are Dr. Anne Eglash and Dr. Valerie Gilchrist, chair of the Department of Family Medicine. Neither Dr. Eglash nor Dr. Gilchrist was involved in any way with these activities. Neither was present at the Capitol during the time frame of these events. We urge blogs and social network sites which have incorrectly linked these physicians to these activities to take responsible action.

Of greatest concern are the threats of violence that have been received by at least one of the physicians allegedly involved in the ‘excuse note’ writing. Threats of violence are never appropriate, are always taken very seriously, and will be reported to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

We are fully committed to investigating thoroughly these allegations, and we will take appropriate action based on our findings. We urge the public to support due process and to join us in condemning any violent responses to this situation.

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 22, 2011 --- 4:10 p.m.

Wis. licensing dept. looking into doctors' notes

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin officials are investigating complaints about doctors who handed out medical excuses for pro-labor protesters at the Capitol.

Dave Ross of the state Department of Regulation and Licensing says the agency is looking into accusations that a number of local doctors provided the notes for protesters who missed work during the week. Ross says the department will review complaints with the independent Medical Examining Board as soon as possible.

Tuesday's statement came a day after University of Wisconsin Health, which employed some of the physicians involved, said it was also looking into the matter.

Physician Lou Sanner was one of the doctors who provided notes. He told The Associated Press on Saturday that doctors wrote the notes for what they saw as legitimate health issues arising from stress.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, February 21, 2011 --- 3:30 p.m.

From the Wisconsin Medical Society:

Madison, Wis. (February 21, 2011) – The Wisconsin Medical Society was notified during the weekend that physicians may have been writing work excuses for people attending rallies at the state Capitol in a manner that is not consistent with acceptable medical practices. If these reports are accurate, the Society does not condone these actions under any circumstances. We are aware that the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board, the entity that licenses and disciplines physicians, has received information about these events.

The physician-patient relationship is a cornerstone for providing high quality health care. Important elements of that relationship, such as conducting proper medical evaluations of patients, should not be taken lightly. We value the trust that patients, employers and the public have placed in physicians, and we hope that these events do not undermine Wisconsin’s history of being a health care leader.

The Society will continue its efforts to maintain the high level of trust that patients, employers and the public expect of our profession. With more than 12,000 members dedicated to the best interests of their patients, the Society takes allegations like these very seriously.

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UPDATED Monday, February 21, 2011 --- 3:30 p.m.

Statement from UW Health
Feb. 21, 2010

There are reports on both social-media and news web sites that a number of UW Health physicians were signing “medical excuse” notes to protesters at the Capitol protests on Feb. 19. This involves a few individuals out of the nearly 1,300 physicians at UW Health.

These UW Health physicians were acting on their own and without the knowledge or approval of UW Health. These charges are very serious and in response, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, the UW Health entities that employ the physicians, have immediately launched an investigation of the reported behavior.

The investigation will identify which UW Health physicians were involved and whether their behavior constituted violations of medical ethics or University of Wisconsin and UW Health policies and work rules. The investigation and any potential future action will follow the established procedures of the University of Wisconsin. Any future disciplinary action taken will be considered a personnel matter and, in accord with University of Wisconsin policies, will not be open to public discussion.

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UPDATED Sunday, February 20, 2011 --- 3:45 p.m.

Excuse notes from docs at protests draw scrutiny

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin medical school says it's investigating reports that doctors from the school handed out medical excuse notes to protesters at the state Capitol this weekend.

Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol on Saturday to provide notes to explain public employees' absences from work. One of those doctors was Lou Sanner, who practices family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Sanner said he had given out hundreds of notes to protesters and many he spoke with seemed to be suffering from stress.

UW Health said Sunday that any doctors who distributed notes did so on their own behalf. The school didn't specifically mention Sanner but said it was looking into cases involving any of the school's doctors.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Posted Saturday, February 20, 2011 --- 8:30 p.m.

From NBC15's News Partner, WLUK Fox 11 Green Bay:

MADISON - Several school districts around the state had to shut down this week because too many teachers were no shows. They turned up at the capitol instead to protest. Now those teachers are getting a doctor's note.

Many districts are requiring doctor’s notes for teachers who missed time. Without the notes their absences are not excused and they could lose pay.

To provide the teachers with an excuse, several doctors were at the Capitol Saturday signing doctor’s notes for the teachers.

"We see a lot of sore throats from speaking out, sore feet from walking, a lot of people kind of chilly, under stress we say the best thing you can do is be with a large support group," said one physician.

But some people did question the doctors --- believing what they did wasn't right or ethical.

Doctors are signing the notes, but whether they will be accepted by the schools is not clear.


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