A young surgical trainee dismissed as “an emotional female” was made to work up to 70 hours a week and on-call for seven days straight at a Sydney hospital.
Dr Yumiko Kadota was hospitalised for six weeks for sleep deprivation last year after an extreme case of junior doctor exploitation, with her repeated pleas for help ignored by senior staff at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital.
“You are killing yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead,” the registrar warned in a blog post published this week.
Her complaint exposes the ongoing vulnerability of junior doctors worked to breaking point and potential risks posed to patients’ welfare as a result.
Dr Kadota, a 31-year-old marathon runner and triathlete, said she was used to extreme fatigue and pain.
But her hospital work took a physical and mental toll.
Dr Kadota said she was rostered on-call ten days every fortnight. She would be on-call for 180 continuous hours, would have one night off, before another 80 hours on-call.
“I was at the hospital for 120-140 hours a fortnight, and work would follow me home,” she said.
At 3am one morning, she was woken up by an emergency doctor calling about a non-urgent appointment. She said she was told to “stop being an emotional female” after complaining.
Dr Kadota said she regularly oversaw the public unit when some senior surgeons took the other registrar to assist with patient surgeries at a private hospital.
After informing superiors she was too exhausted to operate, she was told that it “was good for her”.
In April, Dr Kadota emailed hospital administration: “I often feel unsafe to drive and I am concerned it will start affecting the care I give to patients.”
The aspiring reconstructive surgeon was also made to cover the on-call roster for the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department.
“I was pulling fishbones out of people’s throats through their noses even though I hadn’t been trained to do it,” she said.
Dr Kadota became physically unwell, overweight, stressed, dehydrated and had bowel issues.
“I had been trying so hard not to complain because I knew what was at stake,” she said.
“I needed my bosses to support my application [for the accredited plastic and reconstructive surgery program]”.
On June 1, she resigned. It was her 24th consecutive day of work, including 19 days of 24-hours on-call. She crashed her car driving home.
Her “sense of relief” was followed by the realisation resigning would see her “blacklisted” from plastic surgery jobs in NSW.
But there wasn’t any other option.
The situation of healthcare professionals is more or less same across the globe, without realization that their well being directly affects the patient outcomes.
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