Dangerously overworked doctors risk own health and patients’ too

September 24th, 2008 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 24 (IANS) Doctors and nurses might be risking their own health and that of their patients by being dangerously overworked, in some cases labouring as many as 17 hours daily, according to a new study. Fiona McDonald, associate lecturer at the law faculty of Queensland University of Technology, has completed an extensive study, looking at the different laws in place to regulate working hours across six countries.

McDonald said there had been a number of cases in recent years where patient deaths, or serious injuries, were put down to bad judgement calls caused by doctor fatigue, according to a Sciencealert report.

“After a point being so tired has a similar effect to being drunk, so overworked health professionals are at a higher risk of making poor judgements, their reaction time slows and they face increased difficulties completing routine tasks,” she said.

“The working hours of doctors and nurses are a major issue which puts the health of patients and workers at risk. Australian Medical Association believes some work up to 120 hours per week; most are working less than that but it would still be around 80 hours a week,” McDonald said.

“While mistakes may occur because of fatigue, they may also occur when there are multiple shift changes - mistakes often occur as a result of poor communication during handover.”

She said Queensland is in the process of implementing medical fatigue risk management plans, where every district will develop a plan to assess and manage the high risks of working long hours.

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