There are 104 junior doctors based at Ipswich Hospital.
There are 104 junior doctors based at Ipswich Hospital.

Ipswich junior doctors raise bullying, fatigue worries

CLOSE to half of Ipswich trainee doctors who were surveyed as part of an annual welfare check up witnessed a colleague being bullied at work.

More than a third said they were afraid of making mistake on the job because of exhaustion caused by long hours.

These are some of the findings from the Australia Medical Association Queensland’s public hospital report card for this year.

Queensland Health say there are strong measures in place to support the welfare of those earning their stripes in Ipswich.
Queensland Health say there are strong measures in place to support the welfare of those earning their stripes in Ipswich.

The 2020 Resident Hospital Health Check surveyed 730 interns, house officers and other junior doctors across the state.

There are 104 junior doctors who work at Ipswich Hospital, including 35 interns, 42 junior house officers and 27 senior house officers.

Queensland Health say there are strong measures in place to support the welfare of those earning their stripes in Ipswich.

Ipswich Hospital scored top marks when it came to hours worked and overtime with just six per cent of junior doctors who were surveyed saying they worked more than 90 hours a fortnight.

Every respondent said they had been paid for unrostered overtime.

While 62 per cent felt hospital communication in regards to COVID-19 was satisfactory, only 17 per cent believed facilities at Ipswich could be classed as good or excellent.

Most worryingly, 17 per cent of those surveyed felt their safety had been compromised at work and 39 per cent were concerned they’d make a clinic error due to fatigue due to working long hours.

About quarter of trainee doctors at Ipswich Hospital surveyed said they had experienced bullying at work and just under half witnessed a colleague being bullied.

None experienced sexual harassment or saw a colleague being sexually harassed, according to the survey.

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Those surveyed at Ipswich said 60 per cent of the bullying or discrimination they saw or experienced had been perpetrated by registrars or a principal house officer.

Three quarters of junior doctors had concerns there might be negative consequences for reporting issues and there was a 33 per cent incidence report rate at Ipswich Hospital, according to survey results.

“Disturbingly, 17 per cent of Ipswich junior doctors were advised not to claim unrostered overtime by an administrative officer or senior medical officer and another six per cent felt claiming would negatively affect their assessment,” AMA Queensland Council of Doctors in Training chair Dr Maddison Taylor said.

“This year’s survey also revealed a rise in junior doctors feeling unsafe at work (across Queensland), from 22 per cent in 2019 to 27 per cent in 2020, reflecting the impact of COVID in our hospitals.”

Dr Taylor said rates of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment remained too high across Queensland’s public hospitals.

“The overall proportion of junior doctors who personally experienced these behaviours has decreased from 39 per cent in 2019 to 34 per cent this year, however, the rate of staff witnessing bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment of a colleague has stayed the same at just over 40 per cent,” she said.

“Of those who experienced or witnessed bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment, less than one-third reported the incident, and only 65 per cent felt the matter was handled adequately when they did report it.

“We need to do better.”

AMA Queensland is calling on the next State Government to commit $1.67 million to fund the Wellness at Work program to ensure all junior doctors across Queensland receive resilience training and extra support in their first five years of training.

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A Queensland Health spokesperson said West Moreton Health is committed to supporting the welfare of junior doctors and that was evident by the latest retention rate.

“91.6 per cent of 2020 interns will return to Ipswich Hospital as junior house officers in 2021, and more than 50 per cent of junior house officers and senior house officers have elected to continue their careers at Ipswich Hospital next year,” they said.

The spokesperson said the Wellness at Work program to support interns as they begin employment had been in place at Ipswich Hospital for four years.

They said overtime is strictly monitored and rostering practices comply with the Medical Officer Certified Agreement to reduce fatigue.

There is also an open door policy with the Ipswich Hospital Medical Education Unit so junior doctors can discuss work-related and personal issues with routine welfare checks done throughout the year.

“Ipswich Hospital values the input of its junior doctors and has their representation on several committees, including the Junior Medical Officer Advisory Committee, Fatigue Risk Management Committee, and at the Clinical Leads meeting,” the spokesperson said.

“West Moreton Health welcomes the AMAQ survey as it is another valuable tool for feedback that helps us understand concerns and drive improvements.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.



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