'Compromised' system spurs Vic doc to quit

·3-min read

A top Victorian doctor has quit his job in protest at mounting staff burnout and falling care standards after two torrid years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outgoing Royal Australasian College of Physicians president John Wilson has departed Melbourne's Alfred hospital, citing "compromised" standard of care in the public health sector.

"The tipping point really has come when we have been asked to commit to levels of care that we are unable to achieve," he told reporters on Thursday.

Professor Wilson, who headed The Alfred's treatment of patients with lung disorders, said federal and state governments had not listened to concerns of those at the coalface.

"Someone had to make a stand," he said.

"David Morrison, the head of the army, once said: 'The standard you walk past is the standard you accept'. I'm sorry. I don't accept that standard."

Emergency physician and former Australian Medical Association president Dr Stephen Parnis last week said burnout had prompted him to take three months leave.

An RACP survey released in November last year found 87 per cent of its members were worried about burnout.

Prof Wilson, who is not retiring altogether, admitted he wasn't sure whether he was burnt out and said that was part of the problem.

"If you don't know when you're burnt out, you could be working in a very dangerous situation," he said.

He is calling for a "crisis summit" between doctors, nurses, politicians and government health agencies to improve care standards.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the government would work with medical colleges and the AMA to ramp up the use of "existing resources" and recruit more staff.

"I dispute that that's not happening right now. It is happening but it needs to happen at an even greater level," he said.

The state budget, delivered last week, included a commitment to train and hire 7000 healthcare workers as part of a $12 billion health pledge.

Mr Foley has urged the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and federal immigration authorities to fast-track clearance processes for international health workers, akin to the agricultural industry.

"Whoever forms government after the 21st of May must unblock that pipeline as soon as possible," he said.

However, Professor Wilson questioned the ethics of poaching doctors from countries facing their own healthcare battles and said it would take time for them to meet Australian training and accreditation standards.

"That won't happen overnight."

Meanwhile, Mr Foley and Premier Daniel Andrews have dodged questions about whether they've read a report into the state's ailing triple zero call service after multiple people died while waiting for an ambulance.

The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority report, led by ex-Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton, was received by Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes more than a month ago and will be released before June 30.

Mr Andrews told reporters he has been "briefed" on the report and it informed the government's $241 million budget pledge to hire another 280-odd ESTA staff, while Mr Foley declined to say if he had read or been briefed on its contents.

"It is an outright disgrace that the premier and health minister haven't bothered to read the Ashton report while Victorians have died waiting for an ambulance," opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said.

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