MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison superintendent of schools Daniel Nerad defended a decision to fail to notify state officials about the involvement of nearly a dozen physicians with fraudulent sick notes for Madison teachers, citing the priority of school-related concerns in the wake of February school closures due to mass teacher absences.
"You can look back and say various things could have been done or should have been done," Nerad said.
"Our focus was on the massive details we had to go through in terms of following up on individual (absence) situations affecting teachers and the return to education.
Nine physicians have already been sanctioned for their involvement with fraudulent sick notes as hundreds of teachers participated in state capitol protests of Governor Walker's policies, resulting in Madison schools closing for four days.
But school district records released to the Wisconsin State Journal and 27 News show other teachers signed sick notes deemed fraudulent. Like the sick notes of disciplined teachers, the sick notes with the signatures of eleven additional teachers were form letter-style with an identical email contact, firstname.lastname@example.org. Nerad said district officials concluded those sick notes involved no face-to-face contact between patient and doctor, nor telephone contact.
Former state medical examining board chairman Dr. Darold Treffert told 27 News he would have expected school district officials to inform the examining board of the potential professional violations of the additional eleven doctors.
Nerad said the district's inaction on the conduct of the physicians must not be viewed in a vacuum. "I did believe, if there were problems they would be identified at some point in time."
Department of safety and professional services spokesperson Greg Gasper said as a result of the Wisconsin State Journal reporting Saturday on additional physician involvement with fraudulent sick notes, the examining board will consider an investigation of the doctors' actions. Gasper said a review committee will make a recommendation to the full board on the merits of launching a probe.
27 News attempted to reach the eleven physicians who signed fraudulent sick notes but have not been disciplined or considered for discipline. Several of the physicians did not respond to requests for comment, while others could not be reached.
This list of eleven physicians who signed sick notes deemed fraudulent may not represent all additional physicians in this category, because some of the information in the records is illegible:
Dr. James Bigham
Dr. Susan Carson
Dr. Meaghan Combs
Dr. Jessica Darby
Dr. Jennifer Edgoose
Dr. Laurel Mark
Dr. Dipish Navsaria
Dr. Jacqueline Redmer
Dr. Richard Schmelzer
Dr. Srivani Sridhar
Dr. Melissa Stile
Most of, if not all of these physicians appear to have affiliation with UW Health. UW Health spokesperson Lisa Brunette told 27 News these physicians acted without the sanction of the health organization in signing the sick notes in question. Brunette said UW Health reviewed the actions of 22 physicians and some work rules violations in connection with sick notes were found, but refused to identify the doctors because an appeals process is taking place.
Madison school district records show employees were denied sick leave pay as a result of presenting fraudulent notes signed by physicians with the email contact information.
Dr. MADISON (WKOW) -- A state official said the state medical examining board will consider investigating additional physicians who provided sick notes to teachers during mass state capitol protests.
Department of Safety and Professional Services spokesperson Greg Gasper said a screening panel will look at the actions of additional physicians in providing sick notes deemed fraudulent by the Madison Metropolitan School District, and make recommendations to the full board. Nine physicians have already been sanctioned by the board for actions with sick notes.
A review by 27 News of recently released sick note information shows at least eleven physicians signed notes deemed fraudulent by Madison schools officials.
A former chair of the medical examining board told 27 News he questions why the actions of these physicians is only being scrutinized now and why Madison school district officials did not alert the examining board to the involvement of the physicians.
For more on this developing story and a response from schools superintendent Daniel Nerad, visit www.wkow.com and watch 27 News at 6 p.m.