A young doctor has quit medicine after being labeled an “emotional female” in her job as a plastic surgeon.
The Australian-based surgeon, Dr. Yumiko Kadota, was reportedly expected to work 70 hours a week and was on call for 10 days every two weeks. She accrued more than 100 hours of overtime in her first month on the job.
The extreme exploitation at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital in Sydney left Kadota exhausted, eventually leading her to be hospitalized for six weeks for sleep deprivation.
“You are killing yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead,” the doctor claimed in a blog post published this week.
As a marathon runner and triathlete, Kadota is fit and healthy, but working such long hours put her under immense physical and psychological stress.
Kadota started working in Bankstown Hospital’s Plastic and Reconstructive surgery department as a doctor in February 2018. She says she was regularly on call for 180 continuous hours, before having one night off and then commencing another 180 hours on call.
“I was at the hospital for 120-140 hours a fortnight and work would follow me home,” she said, citing an example of a doctor calling her at 3 am to discuss a non-urgent appointment.
Kadota says when she complained she was told to “stop being an emotional female” and that the exhaustion “was good for her.”
In April last year, Kadota emailed hospital administration, telling them, “I often feel unsafe to drive and I am concerned it will start affecting the care I give to patients.”
Kadota’s health began to suffer, with her gaining weight, becoming dehydrated and experiencing bowel issues. Her GP wrote to her employer advising them to review their roster. She also had the support of six general surgeons in the hospital who backed her up in complaining about her workload, she said.
“I had been trying so hard not to complain because I knew what was at stake,” she said.
“I needed my bosses to support my application [for the accredited plastic and reconstructive surgery program].”
Kadota’s moment of clarity came when she crashed her car driving home on 1 June, after working her 24th consecutive day, including 19 days of being on call 24 hours a day. She was okay, but she decided to resign from her job.
But her relief at no longer having to work unreasonable hours was soon replaced, she says, by the realization she would be “blacklisted” from plastic surgery jobs in New South Wales.
After spending eight years studying medicine and surgery, her career could be over before it’s begun.
“I was physically alive, but spiritually broken,” she said.
New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard told Sydney Morning Herald that he was “deeply concerned” about the issue of young doctors “being worked into the ground.”
“I will be making it very clear that [hospital management] need to start listening to their doctors’ and nurses’ concerns,” he said.
General manager of Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, Peter Rophail, released a statement saying: “we acknowledge the demanding workload by junior doctors.”
Two doctors now cover Kadota’s single position.