GIVEN the vulnerable state that necessitates becoming a patient, the public rightly hold their hospitals to high standards.
The John Hunter Hospital is a part of life in the region that most hope will rarely be required. But when the hospital is needed, it is almost always in a moment of extreme urgency. Its busy halls are scenes of remarkable recovery and unfathomable tragedy on a daily basis.
It is that key role, however, that may have some perturbed by the fact the region's largest hospital achieved a pass mark overall in the latest health check of NSW hospitals.
Its lowest score in the metrics assessed by the alliance of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation (ASMOF) NSW and the Australian Medical Association NSW survey of nearly 2000 doctors in training came in the well-being category.
Overtime and rostering, education and training and its overall score were within the same range. Less than a quarter of survey respondents said their rostered hours always matched the hours they were expected to be on site, with just a fifth saying their days off were allocated regularly with their input.
Support for mental health and well-being was rated fair or worse by more than 70 per cent of the check's 135 John Hunter respondents. That result closely matched the overal NSW grade, falling below its classifications only in education and training and morale and culture. The John Hunter was one of only five hospitals with more than 100 respondents but Gosford, Maitland, the Calvary Mater and Belmont hospitals all achieved better results.
The health check data offers an indication of how doctors-in-training perceive conditions, and it is that perception that matters when it comes to retaining and developing staff. Few of us would stay in jobs we consider to be more difficult than performing the same tasks elsewhere.
The demands of a large hospital like the John Hunter are certainly substantially different from many others around the state, and across any industry problems can be felt more keenly than successes. But if staff feel their well-being is compromised, that may influence their performance.
Hunter New England Health acknowledged the well-being score had "a long way to go" but noted its improvement and said the feedback was welcome. "We are committed to providing a workplace that is safe and supportive for all of our staff, including junior doctors and work hard to support their well-being," the organisation said.
The goal for all parties is a healthy hospital system that delivers the best outcomes for patients, and while perfection is likely unattainable, the pursuit of it is crucial. It is commendable that the John Hunter improved its scores, and there is little doubt that all sides are working towards the best outcomes. Still, this survey's findings indicate an ideal system may be further away than some expect.