Senior doctor’s comments raise workplace culture concerns

Amanda Lyons

11/11/2019 3:26:58 PM

A senior obstetrician’s views on women in the workforce have sparked calls for cultural change within the medical profession.

Workplace discrimination.
The comments of Dr Hans Peter Dietz about the effect of increasing numbers of women in the medical workforce have prompted widespread condemnation.

According to Dr Hans Peter Dietz, a senior obstetrician and professor at Sydney University who sits on the leadership committee of the Australian Salaried Medical Officer’s Federation (ASMOF), the ‘increasingly female’ medical workforce has made it ‘increasingly vulnerable’ to problems such as inability to cope with adversity and suicide.
Dr Deitz made the comments in a group email to other ASMOF committee members in response to a survey of junior doctors, which alleged a western Sydney hospital had a culture of discrimination and harassment.
Dr Dietz went on to add, when challenged by a female colleague, that ‘Women are more likely to drop out during the year, and they’re more likely to fall ill, which is why it’s harder to staff departments these days … They’re more expensive to train in the sense that their lifetime work years will be less’.
In response to the leaked emails, the president of ASMOF’s New South Wales branch, Dr Antony Sara, told SBS News that ‘the sentiments in [Dr Dietz's] emails are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect the view of ASMOF’. 
He added that Dr Dietz was cautioned at the time that his views did not reflect those of the union; however, Dr Dietz still remains on the leadership team a full year after the comments were made.
Dr James Lawler, a junior doctor and former ASMOF council member, has also disputed Dr Sara’s claims, telling The Sydney Morning Herald that an attempt to censure Dr Dietz was in fact ruled out of order by Dr Sara.
‘Not a single doctor on ASMOF’s council rebuked [Dr Dietz during the email exchange],’ Dr Lawler said.
‘No one could interpret Tony Sara’s response to Dietz as a caution.’
Further information has since emerged about Dr Dietz’ attitudes concerning women, both as colleagues and as patients, including his referring to midwives as incompetent, and arguing women should sign a consent form for vaginal births and be ‘scared’ into understanding the physical risks involved.
Since the email leak was first reported, pressure has mounted on ASMOF to sack Dr Dietz from its leadership committee. Many health professionals have also expressed disappointment that such views are being promulgated from a position of leadership, particularly at a time when doctors’ wellbeing is such a focus of concern.
‘These are incredibly outdated attitudes,’ The Chair of the Australian Medical Association Council of Doctors in Training, Dr Tessa Kennedy, told SBS News.
‘The literature has shown female doctors are as good, if not better, at achieving excellent patient outcomes as their male counterparts, and they’re much more likely to experience discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace compared to their male counterparts.’
Dr Melissa Yang, founder of Doc to Doc, a support network for female doctors, disputed that the increasing vulnerability of the medical profession comes down to gender, instead citing issues such as under-resourcing. She said she has also found, via the network, that gender bias and discrimination is ‘happening at all levels around the workplace’.

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Dr Edward Allin Marrow   12/11/2019 10:34:06 PM

Dr Dietz is quoted ‘Women are more likely to drop out during the year, and they’re more likely to fall ill, which is why it’s harder to staff departments these days … They’re more expensive to train in the sense that their lifetime work years will be less’.
When I worked as a hospital doctor in the 1970's at the Royal Free Hospital in London, the Female Dean of that Womens medical school made similar factual observations and was concerned that it would be hard to argue for funding to sustain their 50-50 gender balance for their medical school intake.
That observation was not to argue against the important contribution of women in medicine and I suspect Dr Dietz may be relying on facts for his more current observations. He should not be pilloried if he is simply observing facts.

u44   13/11/2019 9:22:17 PM

We should be asking this question. Is he correct, or incorrect? I don't know the answer as I haven't looked at the evidence. If he is incorrect, then show him with evidence. That would stop this debate in an instant.
If he is correct (meaning this can be proven by evidence) then the next question is, how can we solve these issues? Getting offended by someone's comments is meaningless in any evidence based profession. It counts for nothing.

Dr Stephanie Andrew   6/09/2020 10:22:35 PM

Please do not quote that Guardian article. It is the most inflammatory and ill-informed article I have ever seen in the Guardian. Of course homebirthers and doulas dislike him for speaking out about birth trauma. It ruins their blissful delusion that natural is best. He has really been thrown under the bus for having a blunt German manner.