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"All doctors should feel comfortable to seek help"

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Dr Anne Tonkin writes in her recent Chair of Medical Board of Australia Message in Board's March 2019 newsletter:

"Doctors’ health has been in the news. It is a critical issue for our profession, one in which the Board has an important role. We want doctors to feel ok about seeking help for their health when they need it. The Board allocates $2 million each year to Doctors’ Health Services Pty Ltd (DrHS) across Australia. But we have to do much more to address the fear, reluctance and other barriers that stop some doctors seeking the care they need. We want to work with other health agencies and the medical profession to meet this shared challenge.

The mandatory reporting provisions in the National Law have been revised recently and the threshold for reporting a doctor’s impairment has lifted. But still, myths and misconceptions prevail, contributing to doctors’ hesitation to get help. I want to make it very clear that the Board is only interested in hearing about practitioners if they have an impairment likely to affect their practice and pose a substantial risk to the public. A doctor who is managing a health condition by seeking help, or who takes some time off to get well, is very unlikely to meet the threshold and should not be reported. On the other hand, a surgeon with untreated hand tremor who continues to practise unsafely should be reported to protect his or her patients. Or a doctor with an untreated psychotic condition, or Alzheimer’s disease, who cannot think clearly and continues to practise, would also meet the threshold. These situations are rare."

Link to full article in Medical Board of Australia March 2019 Newsletter here.

All doctors should feel comfortable to get help when they need it because doctors’ health matters for public safety