(File pix) Medical staff at work in an operation theatre. Motorists and riders, including healthcare personnel, should not take to the road if they were tired or sleepy. EPA Photo

I REFER to the report “Medical personnel worked to death” (NST, June 1).

According to Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, 623 accidents involving healthcare personnel were recorded between 2014 and last year. It is shocking.

Of the total, 554 cases comprised accidents related to commuting, that is, during the time the victims were travelling to or from their workplaces.

Of the 554 victims, 12.5 per cent or 69 comprised those who were on duty after normal office hours, between 5pm and 8am.

Nurses made up the largest number of hospital staff. The Health Ministry’s data showed that of the 554 victims, more than half or 295 were nurses.

Among the causes of commuting accidents were chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation, road conditions and weather.

Road accidents are the leading cause of work-related injuries and deaths with commuting accidents making up a big percentage of industrial accidents reported to the Social Security Organisation (Socso) yearly.

Based on Socso’s statistics, the number of commuting accidents had steadily increased from 22,036 in 2010 to 24,089 in 2011, 26,256 (2012), 27,659 (2013), 28,037 (2014) and 28,579 2015).

This showed that the number of commuting accidents had increased almost 30 per cent in just six years.

I agree with Dr Noor Hisham’s advice that motorists and riders, including healthcare personnel, should not take to the road if they were tired or sleepy to prevent road accidents.

He was quoted as saying that fatigue increased the risk of crashes as it made drivers less perceptive and impaired their ability to respond if a dangerous situation arose.

As for healthcare personnel, hospital managers and department heads should be more sensitive towards their staff’s wellbeing and, if possible, refrain from giving them double shifts or long work hours without break.

We need a collective effort to prevent more loss of lives among doctors and other healthcare workers.

On May 9, Dr Nurul Huda Ahmad, a trainee paediatrician, was involved in an accident in Kuala Terengganu after being on duty for nearly 33 hours. In 2015, anaesthesiologist Dr Afifah Mohd Ghazi, 27, died in a road crash in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, while returning home from Sungai Buloh Hospital.

I hope the ministry could provide facilities for its staff to rest while more flexibility should be given to healthcare personnel to take a break. If possible, allow them to rest before continuing with their new shift or travelling home.

To reduce commuting accidents among healthcare personnel, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is more than willing to work with the ministry and other agencies and non-governmental organisations to find the best solutions.

More awareness campaigns should be held for healthcare personnel apart from creating a conducive working environment for them.

As the employer, the ministry has a duty to protect its medical staff and other personnel from road accidents by managing their occupational road risk.

NIOSH could assist the ministry to develop and implement safety procedures and training programmes to help their employees become competent drivers and riders, as well as enhance their awareness about road safety.

It could help the ministry establish a written policy that ensures workers undergo safe and defensive driving and riding courses, including the proper use of safety features and driving within speed limit and not using their mobile phones.

TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE

Chairman, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

153 reads