colds: Sick leave by telephone again nationwide possible.

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During the current cold and wet weather many people catch a cold. But some shy away from going to the doctor because they are worried about getting infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Now, however, a temporary special regulation has been introduced again: Currently, a sick note by telephone is sufficient for mild respiratory diseases.

As already in the spring it will be now again country widely possible to be able to be written off sick by telephone with cold complaints. This special regulation is to apply for the time being until the end of the year.

According to an announcement, the Joint Federal Committee (G-BA) has again agreed on a special regulation for sick leave by telephone in view of the rising COVID-19 infection figures throughout Germany shortly before the start of the cold and flu season. From October 19, 2020, initially until December 31, 2020, patients suffering from mild respiratory diseases can be on sick leave by telephone for up to seven calendar days. The physicians in private practice must personally ascertain the condition of the patients by means of a detailed telephone survey. According to the information provided, a one-time extension of the sick leave can be issued by telephone for another seven calendar days.

Regulation until the end of the year for the time being

“We currently have an accelerating infection dynamic with the COVID-19 virus, but at the same time we also have an increasing number of flu-like infections. This parallel development is worrying. It is imperative that we interrupt them without compromising patient care. This is where we need a nationwide robust solution to build trust. One thing is clear: we are seeing a frightening development of new infections. If there is one thing we don’t need in this serious situation, it is full waiting rooms. After all, the risk of infection increases simply through possible contacts on the way to the practice or while waiting in closed rooms,” explains Prof. Josef Hecken, impartial chairman of the G-BA.

And the doctors have also shown themselves to be responsible in this respect: According to a statement by the AOK Federal Association, there were more sickness-related absences of employees in March and April of this year than on average over the past ten years, although the possibility of taking sick leave by telephone due to respiratory diseases, which applied from the beginning of March to the end of May 2020, may well have had an influence on the increased sickness rates. “At the same time, the data suggest that doctors and employees have handled this temporary arrangement responsibly,” emphasizes Helmut Schröder, Deputy Managing Director of the AOK Scientific Institute (WidO).

“Sick leave by phone is a good alternative to visiting a doctor’s office for people with mild respiratory diseases. The experiences from the spring with sick leave by telephone have shown how prudently insured persons deal with it,” says Prof. Hecken.

“By the temporary regulation, initially until the end of the year, we also take into account the dynamic development of the pandemic. The Federal Joint Committee will discuss an adjustment of the time limit in good time before it expires. This year, we have all learned how quickly decisions in the event of a pandemic can become outdated and have to be adapted,” said the impartial chairman of the G-BA.

According to Prof. Josef Hecken, the possibility of sick leave by telephone and the resulting spatial separation of cases “will benefit above all many older and multimorbid risk patients without respiratory problems: We want to take away their fear. They will be able to take advantage of necessary doctor’s visits and treatments despite an active pandemic without exposing themselves to an increased risk of infection or spreading diseases. And we cannot expect these elderly and sick high-risk patients to check the 7-day incidence daily in order to make a decision about a doctor’s visit. Here, regionally different regulations would only create uncertainty,” says the expert.

Irrespective of the exception to sick leave by telephone, in the case of typical COVID-19 symptoms, after contact with COVID-19 patients and in the case of unclear symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, people should contact the practice by telephone before a visit to the doctor and discuss the further procedure. (ad)

Special regulation for reporting sick by telephone
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