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Half Of Nation's Hospital Doctors Working 'Unsafe Shifts': AMA

Patient lives are being put at risk.

16/07/2017 7:57 AM AEST | Updated 16/07/2017 8:02 AM AEST

Many of the nation's hospital doctors are working to breaking point, with new research showing more than half are pulling extreme shifts putting them at high risk of fatigue.

The research, from the Australian Medical Association, found that 53 per cent were working unsafe shifts that placed them at a higher risk of fatigue, with one doctor reporting an unbroken 76-hour shift.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said it was alarming there had been no improvement from 2011 data on the working hours of doctors.

"The Audit warns that the demands on many doctors continue to be extreme," Gannon said of the data, which tracked working hours for doctors over a week in November 2016.

"It is disappointing that work and rostering practices in some hospitals are still contributing to doctor fatigue and stress, which ultimately affect patient safety and quality of care and the health of the doctor.

"It's no surprise that doctors at higher risk of fatigue reported working longer hours, longer shifts, more days on call, fewer days off, and skipping meal breaks."

He said in one of the worst cases uncovered a doctor reported working a 76-hour shift in 2016, almost double the longest shift reported in 2011.

Shifts of 72 hours, 59 hours, 58 hours, and 53 hours were also reported, the AMA said.

The most stressed disciplines were Intensive Care Physicians and Surgeons who reported a 75 and 73 per cent high risk fatigue work rate.

The AMA said the concerning numbers showed state governments needed to do more to ensure better rostering and safer work practices for hospital doctors.

Sydney paediatric registrar Tessa Kennedy told NewsCorp Australia that many young doctors were pushing themselves to the limit.

"I have seen people fall asleep, trying to catch a 20-minute power nap in the emergency department in front of a computer, and a colleague slept in her car," she told NewsCorp.

"Doctors end up not eating, not peeing for hours, and they get home exhausted."

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