Posted on 15 Feb 2019
Leading law firm Slater and Gordon is investigating a class action into the systematic culture of excessive and unsafe working hours in hospitals.
Independent research undertaken by Slater and Gordon showed that doctors at a single health service worked hundreds of thousands of unrostered overtime in one year alone.
Slater and Gordon Head of Class Actions Ben Hardwick said that doctors – especially junior doctors – were regularly working well in excess of their rostered shifts, with some reportedly working up to 100 hours in a single week.
“There is immense pressure on doctors to work excessive hours, particularly in surgery departments and other demanding practice areas, and that the extreme workload is contributing to a toxic culture and jeopardising patient safety and doctors’ mental and physical health,” Mr Hardwick said.
“Doctors should not be made to feel pressured to work such long hours that they suffer mentally and physically as a result, and they should definitely not be made to feel as if their careers would suffer if they protected their right to a healthy working environment.
“No worker – including health professionals – should have to do such excessive amounts of unpaid overtime, especially when the lives of everyday people are in their hands. The last thing anyone wants is for an overworked, and overtired young doctor to make a critical mistake which could potentially be fatal to one of their patients.”
One doctor who spoke to Slater and Gordon on the condition of anonymity, said that it was “unheard of” for doctors to claim overtime for unrostered hours at most hospitals –despite being officially entitled to it – and that they would be laughed at if they attempted to claim their overtime entitlements.
Data released by the Australian Medical Association’s Safe Hours Audit showed that 53 per cent of doctors were working “unsafe” hours, and were at a significant or high risk of fatigue.
Any doctor who wishes to tell their story to Slater and Gordon or ask about their legal rights should visit our webpage: slatergordon.com/doctors-unsafe-hours