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16. The health professional or health care worker as a patient
A lot of health care workers drink too much and many harm themselves by doing so.
Some of them take days off when they are intoxicated, while others are covered by their colleagues.
A few become involved in covert illegal activities and provide drugs to those close to them.
An educated guess at the number of medical practitioners addicted to illicit or prescribed drugs in the western medical community is in the order of 1%. This same level of addiction in Australian medical practitioners is suggested by the data available from monitoring sources.
A significant number of health care workers are also dependent on a wide range of other drugs, thereby impairing their clinical skills.
HOW DO WE FIND THEM AND HELP THEM? (OR HOW DO YOU HELP YOURSELF?)
There are simple things to do first.
WHICH ORGANISATIONS HELP?
Doctors' Health Advisory Services
Over the past few years in a number of Australian States, a Doctors' Health Advisory Service has been developed as an independent, confidential and fraternal service to help impaired doctors and medical students.
These organisations commenced in Victoria with the development of an organisation bearing this name and linked to the Victorian Academy of General Practice.
In 1982 a steering committee was established in New South Wales representing the learned colleges and professional associations, and together with the Australian Medical Association developed the New South Wales Doctors' Health Advisory Service.
These organisations are independent of the Australian Medical Association, the medical boards and other professional bodies. However, the organisations are all involved in the development and organisation of these services.
A dedicated teleservice is available 24 hours a day in most States and calls for help come from many sources. These include the doctors themselves, their families, staff, patients and professional colleagues. In reviewing the calls received to date, it is interesting to note that a percentage of referrals do not come from the doctors themselves, but from friends or relatives concerned about the doctor's health.
All incoming calls are referred to a panel of senior general practitioners experienced with a doctor's health problems. The 'patients' may be managed by the general practitioners themselves or referred to the Doctors' Health Advisory Service Specialist Panel. In all cases, extreme care is taken to maintain confidentiality.
When calls for assistance are received from persons other than the doctor, strict procedures are followed before that medical practitioner is approached.
The Doctors' Health Advisory Service is independent of the Medical Board. The service will not report doctors to the board nor will it threaten to do so.
The 24-hour numbers for the Doctors' Health Advisory Services are:
New South Wales (02) 437 6552
Note: All of these numbers are available 24 hours, 7 days a week with the use of answering machines and other call services.
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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
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Medical Marijuana Throughout History
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