Young doctor suicides point to deteriorating conditions in Australia’s health system
22 August 2017
The tragic suicides of young doctors have highlighted the reality facing health professionals and other hospital workers. They are suffering from acute levels of physiological and psychological stress due to the dangerous conditions and excessive workloads produced by decades of cost-cutting measures by Australian state and federal governments.
In the state of New South Wales (NSW), three young physicians took their lives in the early months of this year. The most publicised case was 29-year-old podiatrist Chloe Abbott, a fourth-year doctor-in-training at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, who took her life in January. Speaking at a state government-sponsored conference on junior doctors’ mental health in June, Micaela Abbott said her sister was “eaten alive” by the medical profession.
“It’s absolutely devastating that this conversation was only generated after the loss of my sister, but we need to get these important changes in place,” Abbott said. “Chloe’s death can’t be a waste,” she said, referring to calls by her family to address the excessive hours junior doctors are forced to work, among other things.
Earlier, four junior doctors committed suicide in the state of Victoria at the beginning of 2015. A general medical intern working at Geelong Hospital died a week into his internship, while three psychiatric trainees working at St Vincent’s, the Austin and Frankston hospitals, died within weeks of each other.
In NSW, Health Minister Brad Hazzard admitted in March that coronial reports indicated that at least 20 doctors committed suicide in his state from 2007 to 2016, including two senior doctors and a medical student within the…