I REFER to “12-hour shift hard on docs” (The Star, Sept 3) regarding the plight of trainee housemen. I am concerned that while all that was mentioned has been happening for many years, nothing has been done by the Health Ministry.
My son, who is a trainee houseman, goes through the following working hours: Day 1 (normal shift) 7am to 5pm, Day 2 (on-call) starts at 7am and continues all the way to 1pm on Day 3 with only a three-hour break between noon and 3pm on Day 2 (a 30-hour stretch), Day 4 (normal shift), Day 5 and 6 (on-call), Day 7 off day.
While the official hours are bad enough, he normally works longer and unlike what Retired Govt Doctor mentioned in the letter, there is no bed to lie down on when he is on-call.
All parents of housemen I know tell me that their houseman son / daughter also went through or is going through severe stress, depression, crying spells and thoughts of dropping out.
Retired Govt Doctor mentioned that the drop-out rate is as high as 20%. If this is true and has been happening for years, why doesn’t the Health Ministry do something about it? Is such a high drop-out rate acceptable?
Yes, doctors and medical professionals offer a critical service but they are also human.
Shouldn’t labour laws govern how long a human being should continuously work in any profession? How can a doctor be expected to perform if he has to work 30 hours or more continuously?
The long hours are not the only problem housemen face. Unlike medical officers, housemen cannot go out for meals and are restricted to the hospital canteen where the food is often inadequate or survive on bread, buns or tidbits from the hospital mini-mart.
It is my hope and probably the hope of many parents and definitely housemen, that the Health Minister seriously look into this matter and resolve this long-standing issue so that future doctors can be trained in a stress-free and depression-free environment.
We did not spend huge sums of money on our children’s education only to see them suffer depression or even drop out.
Housmen training should be a learning experience to churn out good doctors. I also call on all medical officers to be understanding of the plight of housemen and teach them to become good doctors, not shame or “rag” them.