Queensland’s health workers are stressed and burned out, with many complaining the past year has cost them their health.
Queensland’s health workers are stressed and burned out, with many complaining the past year has cost them their health.

Our health workers stressed and burned out, survey shows

QUEENSLAND'S health workers are stressed and burned out, with two in five in the state's largest hospital saying their health has suffered in the past year as they've worked through the COVID pandemic.

The latest Working for Queensland survey has revealed the true feelings of nearly 27,000 Queensland Health staff members and shows the state's most stressed workers are at the largest Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in Metro North, in Wide Bay and in the state's Central West, around Longreach.

In all three of those hospital and health services, between two in five and one in two felt burned out or overloaded with work.

Staff at the Royal Brisbane and Womens Hospital are among the state’s most stressed health workers. Picture David Clark
Staff at the Royal Brisbane and Womens Hospital are among the state’s most stressed health workers. Picture David Clark

In Metro North, 41 per cent said their work had had a negative impact on their health.

Worrying, as many as half the workforce at some Hospital and Health Services don't believe poor performance will be appropriately addressed at their workplaces.

And half of the Townsville HHS workforce said they had witnessed bullying or sexual harassment in the past 12 months - by far the worst result of all HHSs.

Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics were less stressed, but only a third said their performance was assessed and fairly rewarded and only half said it was a great place to work.

Workers at the Queensland Children's Hospital were among the state's happiest, with nearly three quarters recommending it as a great place to work.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said important issues been highlighted in the survey.

"And I look forward to travelling throughout Queensland to see how local HHSs are addressing workplace issues," she said.

She said she had great admiration for the Queensland Health workforce.

"The pandemic has brought new challenges to all workforces, and health workers have led by example in responding to the new realities under COVID-19," she said.

"It's important that the public service leads by example in providing safe and supportive workplaces."

Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said the government needed to provide better support to nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers who "feel abandoned".

"As a nurse, I appreciate how dedicated our health workers are and the job they do to save lives and help sick and injured Queenslanders get back on their feet," she said. 

"Our health workers are the heart and soul of our health system but they clearly feel abandoned by Labor."

Australian Medical Association of Queensland president Dr Chris Perry said it had been a "pretty stressful year for everyone".

He said it was "pretty scary to go into a public hospital" for several months, not knowing if you would pick up COVID button from some place as innocuous as an elevator button.

"The pictures form Italy were not very uplifting," he said.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D'Ath. Pics Tara Croser.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D'Ath. Pics Tara Croser.

He said many doctors and nurses worried about the mortality rates if they did contract the virus, knowing that the risk of a doctor dying from COVID was 30 times greater than a nurse dying from it.

But he said the large numbers who believed poor performance wasn't addressed may just be perceiving that, saying he had seen little evidence of widespread poor performance.

He said those who had complained their health suffered might not be used to the culture of medicine, which was improving.

"It's been the culture of medicine to just do your time and not complain, so is it much different to what it was," he said.

"I think it's better, but the people who complain about it being bad maybe weren't around 30 years ago."

He said health wasn't about "every child gets a prize" and some people might construe that as bullying.

"You don't want your operation done by the person who hasn't got the knowledge," he said.

"There needs to be a fail rate."

Meanwhile, one quarter of the public service felt overloaded with work despite it growing by 1588 workers since March.

Staff working for The Public Trustee, an office beset by scandal, were the most unhappy with just 34 per cent describing it as a great place to work - a whopping 29 points below the public sector average.

Employees say they are overloaded and burnt out by the job while just a third say the organisation is well managed.

Former Public Trustee of Queensland Peter Carne resigned from the job in July after being stood down for a year following allegations he was drunk, absent and a bully at work - behaviour he denies.

Workers in the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women were the next most stressed, with almost half of the 3133 respondents feeling overworked.

Originally published as Health workers stressed and burned out