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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 December 2020 2020) . . Page.. 112 ..

The ACT Greens know that access to well-resourced, easy to navigate, quality secular health care is a fundamental human right and a pillar of our liberal democracy. In a society like ours, everyone who needs medical support should be able to access it, no matter their income or circumstances.

Safe and supported doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are fundamental to any great public health system. Their wellbeing is vital to the safety of our medical system. I would like to thank all of our healthcare staff in the ACT for their hard work over the last year. This year has been particularly a hard start to the career of our junior doctors, who have had to deal with the pandemic as well as the influx of people seeking care for asthma and other conditions related to the heat and smoke of the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The Greens are committed to enacting policies that understand the relationship between climate, the environment, social issues and health. This goal is shared with the Australian Medical Students’ Association, whose national advocacy priorities include “working collaboratively to minimise the health impacts of climate change through mitigation and adaption strategies”.

As this is the advocacy body for our future doctors, it is important that we respond to its serious concerns. The stresses of this year on the whole of our medical system particularly impact young doctors, who already experience high rates of common mental health concerns and burnout as a result of the high pressure and long hours they experience as part of their work.

In their article in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Kate Johnson and colleagues found that uncertainty and risk posed by COVID-19 had significantly impacted junior doctors. Alongside personal health risk, junior doctors have experienced significant destruction of their training pipelines. This has increased the already high rates of stress, anxiety and depression among junior doctors.

The authors argue that the health system and hospital training programs should respond to this upheaval by fixing issues of bottlenecking in the medical training system and ensuring flexibility in examination and training opportunities offered to junior doctors, while upholding the Australian Medical Council training and assessment standards.

The poor mental health of junior doctors is a well-known concern within the hospital system in Australia and around the world. Evidence shows us that being a doctor is an extremely stressful occupation that has high rates of common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Young doctors are particularly vulnerable to poor mental health and high levels of stress. Compared to older doctors, younger doctors report higher rates of burnout, including emotional exhaustion, low professional efficacy and high cynicism. We know that cultures that demand high performance and promote competition are breeding grounds for burnout and bullying.

In a 2019 report from the Beyond Blue national mental health survey, junior doctors reported working over 50 hours a week, putting them at a significantly increased risk

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