Doctors in Union Sick Note Scam Contend Street Corner Exams Better Than Office Visits

MacIver News Service | February 9, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…]  Doctors who handed out sick notes to protesters while on the corner of Mifflin and Hamilton streets last year claim protestors received more thorough examinations on the street in public than they would have at an office visit. This revelation was discoverd in an examination of  documents obtained by the MacIver News Service through an open records request.

The Medical Examining Board issued reprimands to seven doctors in October, who had given hundreds of sick notes to protesters last February so they wouldn’t get in trouble for skipping work.

The MacIver News Service was the first to report on the incident with a video catching the doctors in the act. The video included one of the doctor’s examinations, in which the videographer gave a list of trivial symptoms. Dr. Shropeshire said he should take some time off of work and wrote him a note.

Scores of complaints soon flowed to the Medical Examining Board, including a dozen from other physicians who saw the news reports.

“This is not medicine, and the doctors standing on the street issuing these fraudulent medical excuses are completely unethical in doing so,” wrote Dr. Paul Maguire.

However, during the investigation, the doctors not only defended their actions, but they claimed the exams they provided on the street corner were superior to examinations they perform in their own offices.

“Many evaluations are done on the phone and often are based on a quite brief conversation with my nurse. In that common circumstance I don’t have any conversation with the patient,” said Dr. Louis Sanner, who can be seen in the MNS video. “On February 19, however, I did see and speak with each patient.”

Dr. James Shropeshire, who appeared in the MNS giving a sick note to the videographer, wrote to the MEB, “None of these notes were ‘phony’ or contained false information. I did not distribute blank notes to anyone. My evaluations of these patients were often more comprehensive than those I, or my support staff, perform when we prepare work or school excuses in my office.”

In the end, the Medical Examining Board issued reprimands to the doctors, not for improper care, but for not keeping proper records of the exams. The University of Wisconsin, during its own internal investigation, identified an additional 15 doctors who might have participated in the street corner examinations. The Medical Examining Board could potentially investigate those doctors as well. Its next meeting is scheduled for February 15.

The Medical Examining Board issued reprimands to seven doctors over the incident in February 2011 where they were handing out sick notes to protesters so they wouldn’t get in trouble for skipping work. The MacIver News Service caught the incident on video and broke the story, which was quickly picked up by media outlets across the country.

State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) reacted with what he called “extreme displeasure” at the light punishment handed out to doctors.

“It is important that people have confidence in the integrity of their doctors,” Grothman told MNSlast year. “If a medical provider provides phony excuses for friends and political allies, how do we know these same doctors are not making up fraudulent excuses for cases involving workers compensation, personal injury claims, or falsely prescribing prescription drugs?”

The doctors reprimanded by the MEB, and who issued fake sick notes to anyone who wanted one, with only a cursory question and answer ‘session’ are:

Adam H. Balin
Mark B. Beamsley
Hannah M. Keevil
Bernard F. Micke
Kathleen A. Oriel
James H. Shropshire
Louis A. Sanner

Ronni L. Hayon and Patrick A. McKenna had received administrative warnings and were involved in the same incident.

The MacIver News Service broke this story and has video evidence of many of the ‘examinations’ that show the brevity of the interactions and the questions asked. Dr. Sanner even chastized our reporter for violations of patient privacy laws by taping the exams which took place in front of tens of thousands of people on a public sidewalk across from the Wisconsin State Capitol.

These fraudulent esick notes were not without financial damage to employers, Grothman has noted. Further, many school boards and taxpayers, who perhaps had to pay for substitute teachers or parents who were forced to pay for daycare or miss work when schools were needlessly closed the Senator said.

“I would have expected at least a month’s loss of license for so brazenly making up excuses for people who wanted a day off,” said Grothman.  “It is also disappointing the University of Wisconsin has not independently suspended doctors under their purview.  This will only perpetuate a stereotype that the UW is just concerned about keeping their well-paid employees getting a paycheck and the Medical Examining Board is more concerned about protecting the paychecks of unethical and unscrupulous doctors than maintaining integrity in the medical profession.”

The Medical Examining Board is currently made up of 12 members, only three of which are not members of the medical community.

Grothman is the author of Senate Bill 420, introduced last week, which increases the number of public members on the board from three to five, and requires that three of the public members of the board be representatives of private sector businesses having at least 100 employees.

“It is clear the Good Old Boy Network is too prevalent on the Medical Examining Board and the State Legislature should act to include more private citizens who will express greater concern for fundamental ethics in medicine and restore the public’s confidence in this state licensing board,” said Grothman after the Board issued the reprimands last year. “Perhaps two new members that are employers who have to suffer the consequences of doctors who frivolously approve sick claims will help provide some semblance of balance to the Board.”