Long working hours putting SA's junior doctors under strain

The long working hours that South Africa's junior doctors are subjected to has highlighted the possibility that health professionals are exhausted and under too much strain.

Concern sparked after a car accident claimed the life of a junior doctor, Ilne Markwart, who was making her way home after completing a 30-hour shift from a hospital in Paarl. Two people were injured in the accident, with indications that the doctor had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

Then one of the victims in the oncoming car later died from her wounds. The family decided to take legal action against the Department of Health.

702's Azania Mosaka spoke to deputy chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Michael Sonderup, and Dr Terrence Carter, Department of Health deputy director-general, about the issue.

Listen to the conversation below:

Sonderup said the death of Markwart has evoked conversations that are long overdue in the medical profession.

None of us are in denial about it. The doctors that I have interacted with are saying that the issue is nothing new. Working long hours and working under difficult circumstances is something we have all done.

Dr Michael Sonderup, SA Medical Association

Carter said policies are currently under review to address the 30-hour shift policy. He says the shift works on the assumption that doctors take intervals between on-call times and take naps at sleeping facilities provided at hospitals.

What has happened is that the work load has increased quite significantly, so the opportunity to take those breaks has become less.

Dr Terrence Carter, Department of Health DDG
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