The medical inspection unit has been hard-pressed.

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In October last year, the health service processed 862 requests for sick leave due to Covid. In December, once Omicron had taken hold, the number leapt to 7,900. Over the first three weeks of January, there were 14,817.

Eugenia Carandell, IB-Salut's director of health care, says that the increase was so "explosive" that there are backlogs - almost 12,000 requests that need to be completed. This strain is a key reason for having introduced the self-management system for sick leave due to Covid, which became available via ibsalut.es on Friday.

Carandell explains that someone who signs off sick for Covid must have a test at a health service facility (private as well as public) or - as from Monday - a pharmacy. "Tests performed at home will not work because IB-Salut must legally confirm that the person is sick. For this reason, the test must be supervised by some type of health personnel."

After the request is made via the website, medical inspection staff will check where the test was done against their database. Once the sick leave is approved, the patient will receive confirmation by text. “We want to provide a comprehensive response that helps control asymptomatic patients or patients with mild symptoms, solving the daily problems that being positive means to them," says Carandell, who notes that only 0.7% of current active cases need to be in hospital.

The discharge will be automatic after seven days, but if after five days there are still symptoms, patients will be able to contact a special phone number and ask for an extension. "We think this will be a great advantage. Most of the infections are among young people who don't have symptoms and are more concerned about the bureaucracy."

IB-Salut has increased the capacity of the medical inspection service. In addition to six doctors, there are also eight retired doctors to handle day-to-day requests. The staff will therefore be able to deal with the backlog.