The poor working conditions faced by our doctors-in-training have been firmly in the spotlight in the past fortnight, with a cascade of media reports drawing attention to system failures which junior doctors bear the brunt of. Both junior and senior doctors are speaking out about these unacceptable conditions and a system which has failed to protect junior doctors from exploitation, bullying and burnout.
ASMOF was especially saddened to hear of the recent suicides of two junior doctors. Whilst we do not know the individual circumstances of these doctors, we do know the importance of safe workplaces in promoting positive mental health.
The ASMOF/AMA Alliance is fighting for change and have just had a win on NSW Health’s policy on overtime, which will make it easier for doctors to claim payment for the unrostered hours they have worked.
ASMOF NSW President Dr Tony Sara said:
‘This is a genuinely good result. We need to see some culture change around claiming overtime because it is only when we get the price signal of overtime that we can reduce it from the unacceptable and arduous levels that it is at in many work places.’
Dr James Lawler is a co-chair of the ASMOF/AMA Doctors-in-Training Committee and believes that the policy is not a silver bullet but is an important step in the right direction.
‘We will be watching closely to ensure the new policy is implemented across NSW and that doctors are paid for every hour of work they undertake.’ Dr Lawler said.
ASMOF has always argued that we need changes not just to policies, but to the fundamental conditions of doctors’ work. The safety of doctors and patients is too important to leave to the discretion of individuals, and to policies for which there are no real consequences of breaching. These policies can be whisked away at a moment’s notice.
Dr Sanjay Hettige co-chairs the Alliance Doctors-in-Training Committee and is calling for better conditions for junior doctors.
‘The damage caused by excessive work hours is well known. What many people don’t know is that junior doctors’ conditions of employment do not actually protect doctors from overwork and fatigue.’ Dr Hettige said.
There has been no meaningful improvement to the industrial Award in over 35 years and NSW have fallen far behind other states and territories. It is no wonder junior doctors are choosing to leave the state or work as locums.
Our doctors deserve legally enforceable provisions to prevent hospitals from making them work unsafe, unpaid hours. ASMOF calls for the Award to include:
• 14-hour cap on shift length and 10-hour minimum break between shifts
• cap on the number of consecutive shifts
• rostering overhaul so rest and sleep time between shifts is maximised
The Doctors’ Union will continue fighting for fair working conditions for junior doctors that keep doctors and patients safe.
Dr Tony Sara, President, ASMOF, 0417498691
Andrew Holland, Executive Director, ASMOF, 0405276030