Hospital Health Check 2019 results are a call to action

15-Nov-2019

The results of the Alliance’s Hospital Health Check 2019 are here and they are making headlines. Whilst the results are the most positive in the survey’s 3 year history there is still a long way to go for many hospitals.

‘Burnt out Junior Doctors fear they’ll accidentally harm patients’- Sydney Morning Herald

Whilst some might be tempted to assert that this generations doctor-in-training might need to ‘toughen up’, that is far from the truth. Doctors-in-training don't need to be more resilient- they need better working conditions.

We have presented clear evidence of the risks to doctors and their patients again and again, but efforts from the NSW Government to improve policy have had a limited impact thus far. Changes to unrostered overtime policy are one example of this. The HHC 2019 results show that 32% of DiTs are never claiming their overtime, and women are even less likely to claim then men. As highlighted in 'Don't give them an excuse to look down on you': why female doctors don't claim overtime, the 2019 survey found less than 19% of female doctors-in-training claimed all of their unrostered overtime compared to more than 28% of their male counterparts. This is further evidence of the inequities women experience in the workplace, and important addition to the evidence on the gender pay gap in medicine.

It is clear that there is an ongoing disconnect between the reality of doctors working lives and the expectations of the employer who has the greatest power to improve them.

Structural change is needed to improve workplace cultures, and the only way to achieve structural change is through the legally enforceable Award for DiTs. Doctors deserve legally enforceable provisions to prevent hospitals from making them work unsafe, unpaid hours. The NSW Government Wages Policy, which caps increases at 2.5%, is a huge barrier to the improvement of doctors conditions.

ASMOF is taking action to make these changes happen regardless, including through a class action which will confront NSW Health head on with the value of doctors work.

The findings also show that our safety regulators to be better equipped to deal with the kinds of workplace hazards doctors experience. NSW Overall has a got a ‘D’ grade for Wellbeing, and the results show an alarming prevalence of bullying, discrimination and harassment and poor support for mental health in the workplace. Our WHS laws need to be urgently updated to recognise fatigue, bullying and violence in the workplace as psychosocial hazards. NSW Health has a responsibility to provide a safe environment to doctors, and Safe Work must be better resourced and equipped to investigate and address risks to psychological safety which are prevalent amongst doctors-in-training.

ASMOF will continue to utilise the results of the Hospital Health Check locally and state-wide to push for change. The improvement over the last few years has shown that it is making a difference.

Any members having difficulties in the workplace can contact The Doctors Union for advice and support. Please email allocation@asmof.org.au or ring 9212 6900.

If you are experiencing stress or mental ill-health, we also recommend getting support from another health professional. You can contact the Doctors Health Advisory Service on 02 9437 6552. If you are in crisis, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (available 24/7).