Friday, December 2, 2011

What Ever Happened to the Wisconsin "Sick Note" Doctors and their "Patients"?

This December, I'll be looking around to see how events have played out, so far, for some of 2011's newsmakers.

I'm starting out with the Wisconsin "sick note" doctors who, last February, cavalierly and shamelessly supplied hundreds of Wisconsin teachers with bogus sick notes so that those teachers could collect sick pay for days during which they were in fact healthy enough to attend a political rally at the state capitol. More than a thousand teachers skipped school to protest Governor Scott Walker's attempt to help balance Wisconsin's budget by requiring them and others paid from the public coffer to chip in a bit more for their own benefits and pensions.

Except for one doctor who works in a clinic, the "sick note" doctors were mostly faculty of the University of Wisconsin--Madison's Department of Family Medicine, where the healing arts curriculum apparently included how to perform the "public health and community outreach" of writing bogus sick notes to enable government employees to accomplish fraud.

Copies of the bogus sick notes and photos and on-the-scene video interviews of the doctors were quick to hit the blogosphere. Under pressure from this highly publicized breach of public trust in the medical profession by their own medical faculty and residents, the University "reviewed" 22 UW doctors said to have been involved in the sick note scam. By early July, most of the reviews (and appeals) had been (secretly) "resolved." Doctors found to be involved in the sick note scam reportedly received written reprimands or suffered some loss of pay and leadership position.

Starting in April, Wisconsin's Department of Safety and Professional Services investigated 11 of the doctors and eventually referred the names of 9 licensed physicians to the state's Medical Examining Board, which is responsible for licensing and disciplining physicians in Wisconsin. The Department suspected the doctors of failure to meet state standards for medical recordkeeping at their "get your free doctor's excuse table" at the Wisconsin Capitol protest.

In a closed session on November 16, the Medical Board decided to place letters of reprimand for the infraction of insufficient recordkeeping in the files of 7 of the doctors, 6 of whom teach at the University. Those seven are: Adam H. Balin, 51; Mark B. Beamsley, 41; Hannah M. Keevil, 50; Bernard F. Micke, 67; Kathleen A. Oriel, 47;  James H. Shropshire, 50; and Louis A. Sanner, 59.

The Board is requiring the doctors to take a few hours of a continuing education course on medical record keeping, at their own expense, and to pay the cost of the Board proceedings against them.

The Board issued administrative warnings to the 2 remaining doctors, Patrick A. McKenna and Ronni L. Hayon, not to try "insufficient record keeping" again.

As the doctors' attorneys were quick to point out, the Medical Examining Board issued "no finding" that the doctors had "issued any fake sick notes or engaged in fraudulent behavior," a distinction that was not entirely lost on the Board's chairwoman, Dr. Sujatha Kailas, who opined:
"There may be other issues but, at this point, we felt disciplining them on the medical records would be enough to prevent such behavior in the future and send a message."
That message was received loud and clear by Republican Senator Glenn Grothman:
"This confirms my suspicion that the Medical Examining Board is a joke. Their goal is not to look after the public at large but to protect their buddies from an undue interruption in their careers," Grothman said.
The doctors, however, are not without numerous supporters among their fellow protestors. As one commenter at the Madison Journal Sentinal observed:
"I don't know why they are being disciplined, I was physically ill when I was there in February. Prove that I wasn't. Being around hardcore Republicans makes me ill."
Apparently, being around "hardcore Republicans" also makes that commenter more financially secure. As RB at The Right Sphere pointed out:
[P]assage of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill . . . has led to a reduction in school tax levies across the Wisconsin, among other benefits (aka a healthy budget).
What happened to the Madison teachers who wanted to be paid by taxpayers to attend a political protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol?

Despite the brouhaha, 84 Madison teachers reportedly persisted in submitting "fraudulent sick notes that appeared to come from doctors at the protests." Those teachers were given until April 15 to "rescind" their submission of the fraudulent notes. The 38 teachers who clung to the swindle had "letters of suspension" placed in their personnel files. At least 1,000 other Madison teachers handed in sick notes from other doctors. Those sick notes were all deemed "legitimate" by the Madison School District. Nevertheless, two thirds of Madison teachers lost at least one day's pay for participating in the protest.


  1. It shows to go you that we are fighting a secret ghost aka... a Justice System and Government OVERSEERS who have one goal--cause no harm to other members (and their minions).

  2. Many thanks, QR! I've been trying to find some follow-up to all the sound and fury of last spring. Though the disciplinary actions are far from what I would consider "just," at least there's some satisfaction in knowing at least of the teachers lost partial pay for skipping out on their jobs to participate in a whine-fest.

  3. @They Say/We Say -- These doctors were surprised they were held to any account! And the Medical Board is equally arrogant!

    @Reagan -- You're welcome. If not for conservative bloggers raising a ruckus to alert the public, I wonder if there would have been any disciplinary action at all.