Unacceptably long shifts still the norm, says AMA

One in two doctors are working unsafe shifts with intensive care physicians and surgeons most prone to suffering extreme fatigue, according to the latest AMA audit of working conditions in public hospitals.

One doctor reported an unbroken shift of 76 hours, during the one-week period of the audit.

Shifts of 72 hours, 59 hours, 58 hours, and 53 hours have also been documented in the 2016 audit of 716 doctors.

While AMA president Dr Michael Gannon says there is an improvement from 2001, when 78% of those surveyed reported working high-risk hours, he notes that there has been no improvement since 2011.

“The audit warns that the demands on many doctors continue to be extreme,” he says.

“We are dismayed that one doctor reported working a 76-hour shift in 2016, almost double the
longest shift reported in 2011.”

Dr Gannon said it was also of great concern the maximum total hours worked during the survey week was 118 hours, the same as 2006, which suggested no improvement in a decade.

However, he said reducing fatigue-related risks did not necessarily mean doctors had to work fewer hours, “just better structured and safer ones”.

The audit also found that six out of 10 registrars were working unacceptably long rosters compared with the average of five out of 10 hospital-based doctors.

You can read the report here.