Which state has the worst conditions for junior docs?

3 minute read

Wage theft, burnout and fatigue are pushing junior doctors out of an already overburdened system, says ASMOF.

The Victorian public health system is under ever-mounting pressure and cannot face losing its budding workforce, says the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Victoria. 

“The Victorian health system is already straining to operate under significant staff shortages, putting the health and safety of Victorians at risk,” ASMOF Victoria said in its recent assessment. 

“Victoria cannot afford to lose junior doctors from the system.” 

The ASMOF Victoria report aimed to address the “ongoing crisis” relating to the working conditions of junior doctors within the Victorian public health system and shine a light on areas of improvement. 

According to a recent survey of over 400 Victorian doctors by the union, almost all junior doctors – 98% – felt that burnout and fatigue were major contributing factors to leaving the profession. 

The survey found that 93% of junior doctors had experienced burnout in the past 12 months and 94% feared making clinical errors due burnout and fatigue, putting patients at risk. 

“Junior doctors have also reported an increased risk to patient safety arising from their workloads,” said the ASMOF. 

“Alarmingly, in 2019, 56% of Victorian junior doctors surveyed reported that they had made a clinical error due to fatigue.” 

Wage theft was another significant risk to workforce attrition, said the union. 

The union’s survey found that 87% of junior doctors had worked unpaid in the past 12 months. 

According to ASMOF, this was not a new occurrence. 

A long history of complaints suggested an entrenched culture of underpayment and wage theft among Victorian junior doctors, said the union. 

“In 2018, it was reported that 63% of Victorian junior doctors surveyed by AMA Victoria worked five or more hours of unrostered overtime per week, and that 53% of junior doctors were not paid for any of their unrostered overtime,” it said. 

“These figures have remained stubbornly high over many years.” 

In 2023, the Medical Board found that 13% of the 19,000 junior doctors it surveyed had never been paid for overtime, 19% were only sometimes paid and Victoria stood out among the crowd. 

“Victorian results remained above the national averages, with 18% of junior doctors reporting never being paid for their overtime and 26% reporting being paid only sometimes for their overtime,” said the union. 

The findings of ASMOF’s landmark class action against Peninsula Health last August, which ruled in favour of junior doctors, substantiated claims of systemic underpayment and an obstructive claims process, said the union. 

“The evidence demonstrated that ‘unrostered overtime was regularly and extensively worked by’ junior doctors and that ‘senior management at Peninsula Health knew that it was likely that junior doctors were working high levels of unrostered overtime but were not claiming for these hours’,” said ASMOF Victoria. 

According to the union, the national data “clearly establishes that Victorian junior doctors practice under the worst working conditions in comparison to their fellow junior doctors in all other states and territories”. 

“Excessive workloads and unpaid overtime have had significant impacts on the wellbeing of Victorian junior doctors.  

“They have suffered from high levels of burnout, poor mental health and dwindling motivation to remain in the medical profession.” 

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