LegalNovember 04, 2020

New survey shows junior doctors fear mistakes from exhaustion (QLD)

Nearly half of Queensland’s trainee doctors are worried they will make a clinical mistake because they are exhausted from working excessively long hours, according to the latest Australian Medical Association Queensland (AMAQ) public hospital report card.

The “2020 Resident Hospital Health Check” (the RHHC), which compares employment conditions at public hospitals across the state, surveyed 730 interns, house officers and other junior doctors.

AMAQ Council of Doctors in Training Chair, Dr Maddison Taylor said that 48% reported concerns about making an error due to fatigue, and one quarter had not been fully paid for the overtime hours worked.

Dr Taylor said rates of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment remained too high in Queensland’s public hospitals.

“As evidenced in the survey, doctors in training are working exceedingly long hours and in some cases without adequate senior support. This predisposes us to burnout, and increases the rates of anxiety and depression, so it’s important not only to fix the systemic issues at play in our hospitals but also to provide practical support and advice in those early years”, Dr Taylor said.

Included in AMA Queensland’s 11-Point Action Plan — The Pathway to Better Health for Queenslanders is a call on the next state government to commit $1.67m to fund a Wellness at Work program to ensure all junior doctors receive the resilience training and support they need in their first five years of training.

AMAQ President Professor Chris Perry said that current laws actively discouraged doctors from seeking medical treatment when they needed it.

“The laws require health practitioners to report fellow clinicians if they believe they have depression, anxiety or another mental illness that could place the public at risk”, he said.

“The result is usually revoking of the doctor’s medical licence, even though their illness may be extremely treatable. Practitioners should have equal rights to access confidential high-quality medical treatment for mental health issues without feeling threatened that their medical licence will be revoked.”

“Every year in Queensland, at least four doctors take their own lives. These deaths could be prevented if doctors were able to seek treatment without fear of losing their ability to practice medicine.”

Source: Australian Medical Association Queensland, “Junior doctors reveal fear mistakes from exhaustion, survey shows”, [media release], 28 October 2020, accessed 30 October 2020.

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