A number of leading medical researchers have warned that it is time for doctors to take time off to relax and reflect on what has gone on in their careers, including the high-profile deaths of doctors and staff.
They say it is “unhealthy” to have so many doctors and their families on sick leave.
Professor Andrew Hore, a clinical fellow at the University of Sydney and a professor at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, has written a report for the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
He has previously said doctors should “look at the data” and make the decision for themselves.
The AMA said the report highlighted the “significant cost to health services” and called on doctors to be “careful about their decision-making”.
The AMA also said that the “time off can be valuable to help families cope with the pressures of work”.
“Research has found that family and friends can have a positive impact on health, but the impact on healthcare costs is likely to be larger,” the AMA said in a statement.
“The AMA recommends that doctors consider how much time they take off, especially if they are not involved in their work and have a family or other close family member on leave.”
The AMA noted that doctors on sick pay were required to make a submission to the Commonwealth Workplace Safety and Insurance Commission (CWISIC), which determines whether they should be eligible for disability.
The submission has to be reviewed by a panel of three senior medical professionals, and doctors must also agree that they will not be paid for the time off, or face fines, for failing to make it.
Professor Hore said he had also been encouraged by an AMA survey of about 10,000 people that found “almost a quarter (24 per cent) of doctors feel pressure to stay at work during the work week”.
“That suggests there is a high demand for people to be on leave,” he said.
“There is a perception that if you have a job, you’re doing the best job you can, but it doesn’t always work that way.”
In recent years, there has been a growing number of high- profile deaths of doctor and staff members.
Dr Michael Voller, chief executive of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, was killed in November last year when he fell from his car while driving to work in the inner-west of the city.
He had been the hospital’s chief medical officer and had been with the hospital for over 30 years.
He was 59.
The Australian Medical Society has called for more transparency in the health system, and for doctors and other medical staff to be able to speak openly about their work.
The AAP also said it was concerned about a lack of transparency on how long sick leave was paid.
“We need to understand how much sick leave is paid and how much of it is paid in the first place,” the AAP said.
The union representing hospital doctors said it wanted the AMA to set out its recommendations and put the details of the study on the AMA website.
The Victorian Medical Association said it would also publish its recommendations to the AMA on how to increase transparency around the work environment.
It called for the AMA’s report to be published online, and said that doctors should be able “to share with patients their views and concerns”.
The Victorian Government has also set up a Working Group on Health, Education and Workplace Ethics, which is investigating the high number of hospital deaths and other workplace deaths in Victoria.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the Government had made a number of recommendations to improve workplace safety and ensure the safety of all Australians.
“All employers should adhere to the laws that protect the health and safety of staff and customers,” she said.