Training and workforce issues dominate DiT agenda | AMA (WA)

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Training and workforce issues dominate DiT agenda

Thursday January 6, 2022

Dr Jennifer Wood-Co-Chair, AMA (WA) Doctors in Training Committee

It is an honour to take on the role of AMA (WA) Doctors in Training (DiT) Co-Chair to represent and support my fellow DiTs in our State.

I would first like to acknowledge the exceptional work done by outgoing Co-Chair Dr Megge Beacroft and I look forward to continuing to work with her within the AMA.

I am an unaccredited surgical registrar with a keen interest in education, training and doctor wellbeing. Outside of work, I’m passionate about strength sports, ceramic arts, community service and volunteering.

The following are my key areas of interest coming into this role.

Training opportunities and workforce shortage

While we have been fortunate in WA during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public healthcare service is struggling to cope with current demand. The recent government budget announcements to fund additional hospital beds offer hope for increasing hospital capacity but it is unclear how these will be staffed safely given the current workforce shortage.

WA continues to have a junior doctor shortage despite increasing numbers of WA medical school graduates. There is limited data available to assess where all these graduates go but anecdotally it seems many leave for other states, which have greater training opportunities.

A solution to this will be to increase accredited training opportunities in WA.

DiT industrial concerns

WA Health needs to create a plan to attract and retain a healthcare workforce for the future. The retention of entitlements would encourage WA-trained specialists to return following fellowship, bringing additional experience and knowledge back to the State.
It is currently difficult for WA DiTs to navigate between public and private training opportunities, and transfer and retain their leave.

This has recently been highlighted by paediatric advanced training registrars at the Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAHS) needing to resign so they can rotate to the Telethon Kids Institute to undertake additional research training. As a result, these doctors lose their sick leave and PDL entitlements.

Such scenarios do not encourage DiTs to undertake additional opportunities and gain skills, which could help improve patient care within WA health. This remains a key area to be addressed in the ongoing industrial agreement negotiations.

Workplace relations and culture

There remains an ongoing disconnect between medical workforce, medical executive and DiTs, causing frustration and stress. It is not infrequent that workplace policies impacting the work of DiTs are implemented without DiT consultation or representation. Training entry requirements are becoming increasingly competitive and complex, with DiTs experiencing poor understanding or flexibility in meeting these requirements from workforce.

The most recent Hospital Healthcare Check (HHC) survey showed abysmally low rates of payslips being correct, with Joondalup Health Campus receiving the highest rate of 46 per cent. All these issues contribute to DiT stress, burnout and poor workplace culture, and can be easily addressed.

Bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment unfortunately remain issues for DiTs in WA, with 33 per cent of respondents in the most recent HHC reporting having experienced bullying. Of particular concern is that 63 per cent of DiTs are fearful of negative consequences if they were to report inappropriate workplace behaviour.

So, one of the first things I would like to do as co-chair is organise a workshop to generate practical solutions to bullying and harassment issues within the workspace. Please contact me at drjl.wood@gmail.com if you would like to be involved.

I would encourage all my fellow DiTs to join and engage with the AMA (WA). We can only be truly representative if we hear all your voices. Please let us know if there are any issues with which we can assist.

DiT meetings are held every second Monday of the month.