Two thirds of female doctors suffering burnout in New Zealand

There are renewed calls for changes to improve doctor wellbeing in New Zealand hospitals.

New research shows two thirds of female doctors and half of male doctors suffer from burnout in New Zealand. 

The topic is being discussed on Wednesday at an annual congress for physicians in Auckland, a week after junior doctors walked off the job.

Occupational physician, Dr Alexandra Muthu, says 71 percent of women under the age of 40 suffer from burnout.

"These statistics are mindboggling. We have to do something about this. People are suffering, doctors, their families, colleagues, patients and society all suffer when we have burnt out doctors."

Dr Muthu says too many doctors are either leaving the occupation or taking their lives.

"We hear about anecdotal cases, but at the moment I'm not aware of any publically available statistics. Doctors are able to find ways of doing this that don't necessarily look like suicide."

She said there are ways to ease the problem.

"One of the ways we can do that is to fund doctor health and wellbeing services so that doctors can seek care in a way that is not going to be embarrassing, that they're going to maintain their privacy."

Junior doctors went on strike on April 29 over proposed changes to their employment contract, which they said would leave them more exhausted than they already are.

"We've had strong ballots all the way through on a high turnout. It's very disappointing for the doctors - they didn't become doctors to go on strike," Registered Doctors' Association spokesperson David Munro said on April 29.

"They became doctors to look after people and make the world a better place."

Capital and Coast DHB Chief Medical Officer John Tait told The AM Show on Monday the changes will give doctors more flexibility and ultimately "make things better".

"The present roster has some unforeseen consequences in it affecting training, continuity of care and handovers... all of which have potential problems with patient safety."