IN AUSTRIA, a study published recently recommended review of the current ‘sick leave system’. This came after a statistical sample which consisted of various sectors affirmed that more than a third of manpower — about 35 percent — return or report back to work while they are still sick or they have not completely recovered from the illness.
The report enumerated reasons why sick employees leave the sick bed and return to work. The most important of which is pressure due to lack of time to complete a certain task, in addition to being worried about losing their jobs.
Lack of job security is a feeling shared not only by those in lower positions as it appears to the mind. In fact, it is shared even by those in higher positions. The feeling is enhanced through open competition facilitated by the European Union’s laws that allow Europeans to compete for jobs even in places which are not their countries of origin.
When I read the news about this study which was published last week in Vienna — the capital city of Austria, I wished the feeling of the sick person in Austria could be merged with the feeling of a sick Kuwaiti, rather the malingerer.
A sick person in Kuwait, rather a malingerer in Kuwait, has many ways of exhausting the sick leave in accordance with the law, and even outside the legal framework, a few days before or after a public holiday.
Many employees do not report for work before the ‘leisurely’ holidays which are given as per the agreement of the Civil Service Commission and the Cabinet during celebrations and public holidays.
The closest example in this case is the recent announcement about the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday which could extend up to nine days. If only our government employees could be satisfied with this holiday which is one of its kind in the world, yet some of them will call in sick before and after the long holiday.
This is about the Kuwaiti patients or malingerers. However, in terms of violation of the law and logic, it is something known as the ‘overseas medical treatment’ which is being promoted nowadays by contemporary officials in the Ministry of Health.
It is enough to say that the budget allocated for overseas medical trip could reach up to KD600 million or about $2 billion, yet many of those benefitting from the service could have undergone treatment in clinics located in their residential areas. This is in addition to taking paid sick leave from work in the government, together with those accompanying the sick who also work in the government.
Moreover, the foreign health offices received ‘astronomical’ invoices from the overseas hospitals and health centers, some of them are obviously fake and outrageous.
In my previous article, I mentioned that in April this year, an employee in the foreign health office in France, in the famous Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris, told a client that they receive about 5,000 clients and the number triples during summer to about 15,000 sick clients or malingerers.
This is the reason behind the crisis currently hitting patients undergoing overseas treatment, considering the measures being taken by the Health Ministry in Kuwait encourage malingering.
We really wish our ministry will take some of our sick people, who are being treated abroad, to Austria. Perhaps, they will be ‘infected’ with the feeling of the Austrian conscience and love for work, instead of the Kuwaiti malingering.
By Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil