The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:10): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing about the welfare of South Australian doctors.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Well, this is a serious subject, actually. More than a decade ago, when I assisted in organising locally-funded suicide prevention programs in the Riverland and on Eyre Peninsula at times of significant crisis, I became aware of the great stress that such situations place on the general practitioners in the area.
Since that time, I have also witnessed similar situations, both in country and metropolitan settings, that have had particular negative impacts on the mental health of general practitioners. Will the minister advise the council on what the government is doing to uphold the welfare of South Australian doctors?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:11): I thank the honourable member for his question. Discussion of health policy often separates stakeholders into discrete groups—the department, the community, patients and medical professions—but in many ways theseare abstract categories. We are all healthcare consumers, even those of us who, most of the time, are healthcare providers. Sometimes the very compassion and self sacrifice that leads individuals to dedicate themselves to work as a medical professional may mean those individuals give insufficient attention to their own health, particularly their mental health.
Doctors are encouraged to work long hours, and their work often carries with it elevated levels of stress. They work with a sense of responsibility for those in their care, and an awareness of the potential impacts of a mistake.
Tomorrow, the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) will launch Socks 4 Docs, an initiative highlighting the need to focus on the health and wellbeing of medical professionals. Socks 4 Docs was founded in 2017 by Victorian cardiologist Dr Geoff Toogood, after his own battle with mental illness. This year, SASMOA will be joining its colleagues internationally in the UK, Canada and the USA to wear crazy socks to help raise awareness. Everyone is affected by the mental health of their medical professionals, whether it is receiving treatment or socially as friends and family of our 14,000 medical professionals.
Socks 4 Docs is not intended to raise awareness in the general community alone, it is also intended to raise awareness amongst medical professionals themselves. We want to encourage them to look after their own health and to seek medical attention when they need it. As the honourable member highlights, the risk of suicide amongst medical professionals is a real concern. This is particularly important because, according to research by beyondblue, doctors have higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide than does the general population.
At a human level we don't want to see another human suffer, and as Minister for Health I am also keen that we support our health professionals to be healthy. It means they can work to their best, it supports recruitment and retention and reduces sick and other leave.
To this end, yesterday I donned my own pair of crazy socks to take part in the Socks 4 Docs 2018. Out of deference to the President, I have left those socks in my room. I congratulate SASMOA and their partner organisations on this important initiative. I am very pleased to have been involved, and I encourage South Australian medical professionals to join in the day.