Another sad tale from Malaysia. A couple of days ago, a young trainee doctor was found dead in a restroom at the hospital where he worked. The 29 year old was found together with a used syringe and attempts to revive him failed. He was due to hold a wedding party in December.
Early reports had claimed that the trainee doctor had been on 24 hour call for at least 5 consecutive days and had worked in excess of 70 hours in the last week. The hospital denies this claiming that such working conditions for trainee doctors have ceased with the introduction of a new Graduate Medical Officer Flexi Timetable system to address complaints about the long hours leading to mental health problems and depression amongst doctors.
The new system was introduced in September last year and under the system, trainee doctors can only be made to work a maximum of 60 hours a week and must have two rest days a week. Authorities claim that there is no evidence that doctors were still being overworked. However, reports of overworked doctors persist.
Many claim that the implementation of the new system has either been ignored by some hospital administrators or was not implementable because there aren’t enough doctors. There are some statistics which might indicate that this is the situation. Due to work pressures, a large number of doctors are being referred to the Malaysian Medical Council for review for mental conditions and depression – an average of 5 cases per month. In October 2011, after the new system was supposed to have been implemented, there were 20 such cases.
The current police theory is that the young doctor in the current case died from overdosing on some as yet unidentified drug that he was taking to help him cope with the long work hours and stay awake. If true then, it is indeed a serious situation affecting both doctors and their ability to treat their patients.
If true, then a young doctor has lost his life, sacrificed either on the altar of despicable negligence of either the petty little Napoleans that are the hospital administrators of some hospitals or betrayed by the failure of the whole system to protect both doctors and their patients.
What a waste of a life that had so much potential.