Doctors still working long hours

Medical Labour Force 1996, to be released on Thursday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows that many doctors continue to work 65 hours or more per week. These hours were worked by 28.7% of surgeons, 20.6% of specialists-in-training, 19.7% of internal medicine specialists and 15.4% of interns and resident medical officers. In contrast, only 4.9% of pathologists worked more than 65 hours a week.

Working 80 or more hours per week is not uncommon in the surgical specialities - more than one in every six paediatric surgeons, and one in ten surgeons practising general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, plastic surgery, urology and vascular surgery worked such hours.

Over 80% of female GPs worked less than 50 hours per week in contrast to 43.5% of male GPs.

The hours worked by general practitioners increased with distance from major population centres from an average in metropolitan areas of around 50 hours per week for males and 34 hours per week for females to an average in remote areas of 56 hours for males and 45 hours for females.

Mr Warwick Conn of the AIHW's Labour Force Unit said that 'Female medical graduates tend to be in fields of medicine with greater opportunities for part-time work and shorter working hours.

'In 1996, over half (58.2%) of general practice trainees were female. In the specialties, just under a third (32.6%) of trainees were females, the highest proportions of these being in endocrinology, haematology, medical administration, paediatric medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology. The lowest proportion of female specialist trainees was in the surgical disciplines.'

Other findings of the report include:

  • In 1996 there were 45,342 clinical medical practitioners working in Australia. Of these, 27.5% were females - an increase from 25% in 1993.
  • 22.8% of primary care practitioners were in rural and remote areas-up from 20.8% in 1994. This proportion contrasts with the 28.9% of the population living in rural and remote areas.
  • In 1996 there were 547 clinical medical practitioners working in an Aboriginal health service, either as their main, second or third job. Just over 38% (209) of these were females. There was no available information on how many of these doctors were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders themselves.
  • 63% of Aboriginal health service medical practitioners worked in a metropolitan area where 36.2% of the Indigenous population was located.

20 August 1998


Further information: Warwick Conn, ph. 02 6244 1154.
For media copies of the report: Lena Searle, ph. 02 6244 1032.