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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 December 2020) . . Page.. 113 ..


of common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as exhaustion. High levels of exhaustion cause an understandable but unfortunately realistic fear of making a life-changing mistake while providing critical medical care. The Beyond Blue report evidenced that management of working hours, including breaks, leave and days free from duty, is necessary to improve the mental health of our trainees, alongside early and effective mental health intervention. These changes are vital to improving the lives of our doctors and ensuring safety within our health system.

The mental health of our doctors is a pipeline issue and one that begins early in their training. The wellbeing of medical students is of significant concern, making the mental health of junior doctors a problem that must be dealt with in the hospitals they are employed by, as well as in the universities that they come from. We know that mental illness and suicide are more prevalent among Australian medical students and doctors than in the general population. Indeed, the rate of depression amongst medical students is as high as 27 per cent. This is one of the issues that I will discussing with our stakeholders in the ANU Medical School in the coming weeks.

There is an undeniable gender component to the issue of junior doctor wellbeing. Female junior doctors are more likely than their male counterparts to report very high psychological distress, as well as greater work life related stresses, according to Beyond Blue. These women report rates of psychological distress at double the rate of women in the general population. Our responses to this issue must take a whole-of-life approach to the wellbeing and mental health of our medical staff.

In the ACT 12 per cent of Canberra Health Services staff indicate that they have been subjected to physical harm, sexual harassment or abuse at work. Of these staff, 46 per cent indicated that it was by someone they worked with, and 37 per cent said it was by a member of the public. These kinds of issues require both immediate intervention as well as long-term cultural change.

Alongside the important issue of junior doctor burnout and patient safety, this motion speaks to the reputation of the ACT healthcare system and our ability to train and retain physicians. Given the longevity of the doctor training pipeline, it is important that we attract talented trainee physicians and are able to provide them with high-quality training that enables them to go on and practise safely in our health system. Ensuring that our workplaces are safe places to work and train in is fundamental to this aim and requires a commitment to ongoing change in the way that we operate.

What I have spoken about today are systemic cultural problems that require systemic solutions. That is why I am supporting the minister in amending this motion to ensure that these issues are considered as part of the government’s response to the 2019 Independent Review into the Workplace Culture Within ACT Public Health Services.

I am encouraged by the government’s response to this review and the honest and reflexive work of the culture review oversight group and related committees so far. I acknowledge that the minister will respond to the review biannually and, as a result


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