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Junior doctors launch legal action against hospital


Matt Woodley


7/08/2019 2:10:13 PM

Administrators have admitted trainee doctors at Melbourne’s Sunshine Hospital are overworked and have not received mandated clinical training.

Hospital doctors
Trainee doctors at Melbourne’s Sunshine Hospital say they are worked to exhaustion while being denied vital clinical training.

Young doctors at Sunshine Hospital say they can work up 60 hours a week, while also accruing 40 hours of overtime per fortnight and rarely being allocated time to attend clinical training.
 
According to a Fairfax report, the claims have pushed the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Victorian branch to pursue action against the organisation that operates Sunshine and Footscray hospitals, Western Health.
 
In particular, the case focuses on claims registrars have not been provided with the mandated 10 hours’ clinical training per fortnight.
 
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one junior doctor told The Age the ‘toxic’ conditions at Sunshine Hospital are placing lives at risk.
 
‘Not being able to receive critical training is symbolic of a hospital where a workload is out of control and you’re staying back just to make sure patients are safe,’ the doctor said. ‘But they often question why you can’t get everything done in your shift and blame you for it.
 
‘It makes you feel powerless, embarrassed and frustrated.’
 
According to AAP, Western Health has since admitted that Sunshine Hospital’s junior doctors have been overworked, and the organisation said it is working ‘constructively’ to resolve the issues.
 
‘This includes improved rostered access to training time and the introduction of a new training time guideline following consultation with medical staff, as well as improved processes for claiming overtime hours,’ a Western Health statement said.
 
‘The essential contribution of all medical staff, junior and senior, is greatly valued by Western Health, which has recently implemented a range of measures to both reduce the workload on our junior doctors and to ensure access to adequate training opportunities during their time with us.’
 
News of the legal action is the latest in a string of examples of unhealthy working conditions for junior doctors.
 
In June, news came to light that medical colleges had removed trainee doctors from several hospitals over concerns for their welfare following reports of bullying and harassment.
 
Meanwhile, NSW registrar Dr Yumiko Kadota last year resigned from Bankstown Hospital, her physical health having deteriorated as a result of being rostered on-call for 10 days every fortnight – which means she was on-call for 180 continuous hours before having one night off, and then on-call again for another 80 consecutive hours.
 
‘I often feel unsafe to drive and I am concerned it will start affecting the care I give to patients,’ Dr Kadota wrote in an email to hospital administration.
 
When Dr Kadota resigned on 1 June 2018, it was her 24th consecutive day of work, including 19 days of 24-hours on-call, and the young doctor crashed her car while driving home.
 
According to the anonymous junior doctor at Sunshine Hospital, registrars are often on call for 10 straight days, or not given a 10-hour break between shifts.
 
‘Often you go home after working hours and hours of overtime feeling extremely anxious and there have been times where I have felt so tired I have forgotten to do things,’ the doctor said.
 
‘Or you wake up at 2.00 am and worry you’ve made a mistake on the medication chart, so you’re calling the hospital at 3.00 am to check on patients.’
 
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognised burnout as a medical condition in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for the first time, defining it as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
 
Doctors are at increased risk of burnout relative to workers in other fields, but recently published research has found professional coaching can help alleviate symptoms.
 
More than a third of GPs experience psychological burnout, with male doctors particularly affected.



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