New law: Surgeons can’t work for more than eight hours a day
The Ministry of Health is moving toward adopting a legislation that would require hospitals to limit the working hours for surgeons to no more than eight hours a day.
The legislation is an effort to curb the potentially fatal effects exhaustion can have on doctors’ performance.
The legislation also aims to reduce the number of medical errors in a bid to combat negative perceptions about the Kingdom’s health care system, according to sources.
Muayed Al-Farsi, a general surgery specialist at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, stressed the importance of this decision in spite of the fact that surgeons receive extensive training to be able to perform surgeries for long periods of time.
Sources at the Health Ministry said the ministry is in the process of studying proposals that would make sure that public hospitals adhere to the new rule and that doctors aren’t taking on extra cases of surgery to make more money at the expense of quality.
The proposal to restrict working hours first came after private hospitals intensified surgical operation schedules for surgeons, forcing doctors to work more than 18 hours per day.
According to sources, several surgeons have taken it upon themselves to increase the number of surgeries they perform in order to increase financial returns.
Some even perform up to 20 surgeries a day, increasing the risk of medical error due to exhaustion.
Sources said that violations of the new regulations would result in the imposition of penalties on the hospital, but details about such penalties are yet to be announced.
Several families at private hospitals in Jeddah, meanwhile, complained last week of delays in operating on their family members. Many said that they were forced to wait long hours in waiting rooms.
One patient complained that he had waited for hours to have a simple hernia operation. The patient was told to report to the hospital at 6 a.m., but after eight hours, the surgeon decided to reschedule the operation after having already performed more than 40 procedures that day.
“The work of surgeons is very sensitive,” said Al-Farsi. “Unlike physicians, general surgeons are extensively prepped to operate for extended hours.”