Junior doctors to sue health services over unpaid overtime
Junior doctors across multiple states and territories are banding together to sue health services over unpaid overtime, excessive hours and dangerous rostering.
Lawyer Hayden Stephens is leading the class action which will sue health services in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Doctor Lucy Crook said the centre of the issue was the dangers of treating patients when doctors are exhausted.
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"What these class actions are more about is the fact that these hours are unsafe both for doctors and for the patients that we look after," Crook said on Weekend Today.
"No one wants their loved one to be looked after by a doctor who is tired and overworked and burnt out… I think that is the reality in many situations."
She said no one got into the job thinking it would be easy but now a significant number were thinking about leaving the profession.
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"All of us have had to do many years of study to do this job and for many of us it has been something that we have worked towards our entire lives," Crook said.
"To get to the point where a significant proportion of us are saying we are not only going to get a new job or leave our current health service, we are completely going to leave the profession and do something else… I think that has to start ringing alarm bells."
She said it was devastating that so many doctors were feeling burnt out, overworked and feeling like they had no other option but to quit.
The maximum shift length in Victoria has been reduced from 16 to 14 hours.
In surveys conducted across the country, 60 per cent of doctors fear making a clinical error because of fatigue and long hours.
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Approximatly 45,000 health workers could be impacted by the class action.
Stephens said it was clearly a widespread systemic problem.
"What I think this demonstrates that is this is a problem that's very much embedded in the business of running health right across our country and doctors are now banding together to say enough is enough," he said.
"This practice of excessive hours, dangerous hours, must stop."
The class action will aim to show the hours doctors are working to improve staffing to prevent fatigue and improve patient health outcomes.
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