Dan Muchaluk has a post on Ontario Arbitrator Says Employers Entitled to More Than a Bare Medical Certification in which he discussed the recent award of Arbitrator Sudykowski in Providence Care, Mental Health Services.
The Union argued that Arbitrator Surdykowski "got it wrong" in his earlier award in Hamilton Health Sciences Centre. Arbitrator Surdykowski welcomed the opportunity to "reflect upon and take a second look at the issue". Arbitrator Surdykowski provides a careful and reasoned review of this complex and divisive issue, while truly taking a fresh look at the matter.
In reviewing the role of the physician in the return to work proces, he observes:
Particularly in the unionized work world there is a very limited place for medical health professionals as advocates. There the role of the medical health professional is to provide the necessary medical facts and expert opinions as required, and to leave advocacy in the collective agreement benefits administration process, or the grievance arbitration process, to the union which is charged with the duty and responsibility of representing employee interests in that respect.
The physician as "patient advocate" is something that is frequently seen. While, possibly, unstandible at some level, this more often than not frustrates the return to work process and results in requests for additional medical information and delays. Arbitrator Surdykowski's comments reminded me of the Canadian Medical Association policy on the Physician's Role in Helping Patients Return to Work after an Illness or Injury, a document that every employer should review.
Managing the return to work process, and knowing what information can be requested and how to go about requesting it, is a complicated and case specific matter. Have a read of Dan's post and the case for the latest word in this ongoing debate.