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Survey finds doctors unhappy and dangerously overworked

Jan 08. 2019
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By The Nation

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DOCTORS and nurses at state hospitals in Thailand are chronically overworked, according to the Department of Medical Services, which is tabulating the results of a survey that found about 60 per cent of doctors work more than 80 hours per week and 90 per cent had to take shifts even when ill.

Evaluation of the poll results would be completed this week, said department chief Dr Somsak Akkasilp, and solutions proposed next week to Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn and the ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai.

Somsak said a team led by Medical Law Office deputy director Dr Methee Wongsirisuwan was assigned late last year to assess the workloads of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists and radiology technicians, who all work night shifts.

The goal was to gather information on which solutions could be based. 

Somsak said solutions would first be implemented to benefit the more than 10,000 medical personnel at 31 hospitals under the ministry. They account for 70 per cent of 18,000 staff overseen by the department. 

Initial findings indicate that about 60 per cent of the 1,000 doctors polled work more than 80 hours a week – double the Medical Council’s recommended limit of 40 hours. Somsak said all factors |contributing to the discrepancy would be studied and solutions sought.

Working even when ill

Dr Methee wrote on Facebook page that the poll uncovered 30 per cent of physicians working more than 100 hours a week. 

Another 15 per cent said they |had worked shifts every day of the week and 90 per cent reported taking shifts even when they felt ill because there was no one to replace them or they felt “compelled” to |do so.

Seventy per cent of the doctors had worked shifts even when a parent, spouse or child was ailing, leaving them unable to care for their own family members, Methee wrote.

More than 50 per cent of doctors were examining more than 100 outpatients a day on top of their hospitalised patients. 

Recently revised standards for medical exams require a doctor to spend at least 10 minutes tending to new patients and at least five minutes with repeat patients.

More than 55 per cent of the doctors surveyed claimed to be treating nearly 70 emergency cases per day, Methee said. 

Ninety per cent said mistakes were possible in treatment because of their work overload and sleep deprivation.

Seventy per cent of doctors said their work was affecting their own physical and mental health, resulting in depression, burnout and insomnia, while 65 per cent said they were unhappy working in the medical profession.

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