Fatigue concern alarms minister

SHADOW health minister and Member for Caloundra Mark McArdle made an unexpected visit to Bundaberg Monday to share his concern about overworked doctors in Queensland, particularly at Bundaberg Hospital.

The opposition member said doctors at Bundaberg Hospital were still doing 72-hour-straight shifts and has accused the government of putting patients at risk.

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“No person can function after working 24 hours straight, let alone 72 hours,” Mr McArdle said.

“When it is a doctor, it puts that person in the category of dangerous to anybody that they treat.”

Mr McArdle sourced the information from a recent doctors' fatigue survey, which surveyed junior doctors from across Queensland.

“We need to put in place local hospital boards and make sure money is not wasted on bureaucrats in Brisbane,” Mr McArdle said.

“You cannot do that from George Street.”

Mr McArdle was joined at Bundaberg Hospital by Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey.

“We need an open and transparent Queensland Health, so hard workers can get on and do their job,” Mr Dempsey said.

“There is an over-representation of part-time and casual workers - we need to employ people full-time and give them what they need.

“We've got to think about the next 20 or 30 years ahead and stop this short-sightedness.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Paul Lucas did not take the criticism lightly.

“The Queensland Government takes the issue of fatigue seriously and since 2007 has been implementing a $4.6 million Medical Fatigue Risk Management Strategy to address fatigue-related risks for doctors and patients,” Mr Lucas said.

“To reduce doctor fatigue, we need more doctors in the system and that is what we are delivering.”

He said the management strategy was supported by Salaried Doctors Queensland and the Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ).

He said Queensland Health was implementing a range of strategies to reduce the occurrence and effects of fatigue.

A key step, he said, was an increase in the annual intake of medical intern positions from 250 in 2005, to 551 in 2010, and 644 in 2011.

“This includes a commitment to providing an intern place for all state domestic medical graduates to ensure Queensland-trained doctors can continue to work in Queensland,” Mr Lucas said.

“Locally, this intake will see an additional 32 interns across the Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay District in 2010.”

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