22 August 2016

Burnout, stress and concerns about their effects on patient care are real issues facing the medical profession, says Dr Stephen Child, Chair of the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA).

“We share the concerns of our colleagues in the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists and the Resident Doctors’ Association,” Says Dr Child.

“In a short discussion on this with colleagues, I heard reports of senior specialists having 12 days on duty in an intensive care unit, with seven nights on call…four of those consecutively; another who was woken on three consecutive nights before working a 12-hour day, with a pager going off 18 times in one afternoon while they were with other patients.

“Our patients deserve better. The NZMA’s position statement on Doctors’ Health and Wellbeing makes key recommendations on this issue. We ask employers to implement policies and processes to support safe rostering practices and safe working hours, and reduce excess stress and fatigue.

“We also recommend that training schedules and providing medical services should ensure reasonable working hours so that both doctors in training and senior staff are able to provide quality patient care.”

The NZMA has also called on the government and key decision makers to consider the potential impact of changes in the healthcare system on the health and wellbeing of doctors, and to consult meaningfully on such matters.

“New legislation on workplace safety means we must understand the effects of working conditions on medical staff and the care they provide,” says Dr Child. “We need to be able to measure what is happening in our workplaces, so we also recommend that an appropriate quality indicator to assess doctors’ welfare be developed, implemented and adopted nationally as a measure of District Health Boards’ performance.

“This issue is too important—for both healthcare professionals and those they serve—to be ignored.”