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Signs Of Psychological Disturbance Among Doctors



Worrying Signs Of Psychological Disturbance Among Senior Hospital Doctors

''The report that around 29% of senior hospital doctors were suffering from ‘psychological distress’ is very worrying and something that both the government and district health boards should seriously consider how to remedy,'' said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today. Mr Powell was responding to article by Dave Clark and Racquel Singh based on a survey conducted in 2000 of senior doctors at the Auckland District Health Board (NZ Medical Journal, 22 October 2004, Vol.117, No.1204).

“If 29% of senior hospital doctors suffering from ‘psychological distress’ was not bad enough, about 10% suffer from ‘severe psychological disturbance’. It appears from the research and from our own experience that key factors behind this unfortunate and distressful situation include the difficult working conditions of senior doctors and ‘top-down’ managerial styles in DHBs.”

“The government and DHBs should be very worried about these figures. Although based on an Auckland survey, this is most likely to be reasonably typical in most or all district health boards. Poor working conditions and ‘top-down’ managerial styles prevail to one degree or another in all DHBs.”

“Senior doctors are generally overworked and faced increase workload stress and pressure. While governments and health managers make decisions that can effect and deny access to services and compromise standards of patient care, senior doctors are left with the risks and responsibilities of coping with the consequences.”

“Measures to help overcome this serious problem include more non-patient contact time, better resources, and increased medical and nursing staff. We also need more collaborative managerial styles in DHBs that don’t take senior doctors for granted, don’t treat them like production workers on a conveyer belt, and don’t shift the risks of providing health services upon their shoulders. Instead we need for senior doctors and other health professionals to be allowed into the engine-room of health policy decision-making.”

“The government and DHBs should also be concerned because such a high level of psychological distress and severe disturbance risks having a negative impact on performance and productivity.”

“The message and implications of this study are simply too alarming for the government and DHBs to ignore,” concluded Mr Powell.

Ian Powell

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