Doctors’ health bodies will appeal to the profession to help fund a national hotline for colleagues troubled by medicolegal disputes, drug and alcohol issues and other health problems.
The Australian Doctors’ Health Network, formed by the different state doctors’ health advisory services, will approach the Medical Board of Australia to consider asking doctors to make a contribution in addition to their annual registration fee to fund the program.
Dr Jill Gordon, president of the Doctors’ Health Advisory Service (NSW) said the group hoped to set up a 24/7 hotline run by volunteer doctors and will be discussing the proposal at the Network’s next meeting on August 13.
“With the national registration of health professionals now, we thought it was probably a really good idea to look at the potential to have something like a national helpline that would then be redirected to [organisations] in the respective states,” she said.
Medical Board of Australia chair Dr Joanna Flynn said the Board would consider the option along with others in its bid to find sensible, effective and fair ways to address doctors’ health issues.
The magnitude of the issue has been highlighted in a study reported in the MJA today, which found that among 3000 Australian specialists, GPs and trainees, the main work-related factor linked to psychiatric illness was facing a current medicolegal matter.
The study found two in every three doctors had faced such a matter and 14% were currently embroiled in one.
Dr Gordon said despite support programs being in place for doctors facing litigation, a deep sense of shame, guilt and regret over bad outcomes, whether the doctor was at fault or not, stood in the way of help seeking.
“We know what a crippling effect it can have, and [it] has actually driven people out of the medical workforce, which I think is tragic after people have trained for all those years,” she said.
Di Preen, senior manager of the risk advisory service for Avant, the largest medical indemnity insurer in Australia, said about 1700 clients faced a medicolegal claim each year. Around 60% of cases involve specialists.
MJA 2010; 193:161-166.
Posted 2 August, 2010
Tell us what you think:
Would you be prepared to contribute money to fund a 24 hour hotline for troubled doctors?