1300 senior doctors sign open letter to NSW Premier: 'Our patients are at risk'

Over 1300 senior clinicians from across NSW are urging the NSW Government to act on the medical staffing crisis, or else the State’s public health services will continue to decline.

The open letter, sent to Premier Perrottet on Monday, reveal doctors’ widespread disappointment that the NSW Government has failed to deliver the workplace reforms urgently needed to stop the exodus of specialised medical staff from NSW Health.

Public hospital doctors’ pay and conditions have stagnated for the last 10 years under the NSW Government’s 2.5% wage cap, and they are now the least competitive across all of mainland Australia.

Dr Tony Sara, President of ASMOF NSW – the Doctors’ Union, said:

‘Our public hospitals are operating in crisis mode with blown-out wait times and patients at risk due to understaffing. We must do everything we can to    keep our highly skilledmedical staff in the public sector and keep these services running, but it’s impossible with the wage cap in place. We can’t meaningfully reform the Award - it’s a dead-end’

Comments left by senior medical staff on the open letter reveal the extent to which health services have declined, with many long-term staff specialists contemplating quitting - if they haven’t already left. 

‘I used to work as an anaesthetist at [hospital] until March last year when I left after 14 years. With no prospect of anyone in power taking seriously our pleas for help I left for my own sanity but with a heavy heart knowing that the service is slowly deteriorating because of the abject failure of those in the position to help.’

Another signatory wrote:

‘I have worked as a staff specialist for nearly 20 years. We are overworked, burnt out and short staffed. I cannot carry on like this and am seriously considering resigning if things do not improve. Most of my colleagues feel the same way.’

Doctors who signed the letter range from Heads of Department at major Sydney teaching hospitals to staff specialists struggling at regional and rural hospitals:

‘Tonight we have no doctors at 5 of our peripheral hospital sites, as my colleagues continue to quit NSW Health and cross the border for better pay and conditions’ wrote one exhausted doctor. 

ASMOF NSW has been in the Industrial Relations Commission since January 2022 to secure fairer working conditions for the medical staff at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, who struggle to provide care under these outdated conditions.

In November 2022, the Industrial Relations Commission issued a Statement in which it recognised that there were gaps in the current Staff Specialist Award for handling non-standard work hours. Under the current Award, public hospital doctors are not paid for the overtime they regularly perform.

NSW Health was required to provide a proposal to amend the Award on 28 February but instead sought an extension to delay this until after the NSW State election.

‘Our Premier and Health Minister will be hearing loud and clear from our state’s doctors that they can no longer sit on their hands- lives are at risk.’ Dr Sara said.

Read the open letter in full here.

22 March 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Carolina Simpson, Communications Manager, 0422 389 747