Australia Fatigued, overworked doctors demand overhaul to working conditions fearing patient safety
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Growing numbers of overworked, exhausted training doctors fear they will make fatigue-related mistakes if public hospitals do not overhaul working conditions.
Fifty-one per cent of 808 junior doctors surveyed in the latest annual Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) Resident Hospital Health Check said they experienced fatigue due to working excessive hours — up from 48 per cent in 2020 and 46 per cent in 2019.
Council of Doctors in Training co-chairs Robert Nayer and Natasha Abeysekera said the survey result should come as a wake-up call to health authorities.
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"Every year more and more doctors in training raise this as a key concern and they need to be heard before their fears become a reality," Dr Nayer said.
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ABC Radio Brisbane revealed, but was still 50 per cent higher than before the pandemic began.
Dr Nayer said the pandemic had placed huge pressures on staff and training doctors needed support more than ever.
"They are essential workers and we need to train and retain the next generation of doctors in workplaces where they are respected and appreciated so that they, in turn, can provide excellent patient care," he said.
"These trainee doctors are working exceedingly long hours, often in a very stressful environment, and this can leave some members of the profession vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
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"We do not want to see anyone exit the profession early due to inadequate safeguards and support."
One in three feel unsafe at work, report finds
Of the respondents, 30 per cent said they felt unsafe at work this year — an increase from 27 per cent last year and 22 per cent in 2019.
Dr Nayer said a quarter of trainee doctors said they had not been paid for all the overtime they claimed, a quarter were told not to claim additional hours, and a quarter did not claim overtime for fear it could negatively affect their assessment.
The report showed there had been a small increase in bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment, with more than a third of junior doctors experiencing the problems but 41 per cent witnessing the acts.
Additionally, 71 per cent of respondents were concerned there might be negative consequences to reporting incidents — up from 55 per cent last year.
AMAQ and training doctors have repeatedly called for more funding to be designated to its Wellbeing at Work program to support all doctors.
Council of Doctors in Training Wellbeing spokesperson Chris Erian said the report card had been published annually since 2016.
"We are simply not seeing the necessary improvement in key areas," Dr Erian said.
"It's vital that we extend this program to cover all doctors who need this support."
Queensland Health has been contacted for comment.
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