Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In a boil over coffee

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d'une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Queensland department slammed for telling doctors to drink six cups to fight fatigue

CANBERRA - The Queensland Health Department has advised doctors to drink six cups of coffee a day to fight off fatigue and avoid harming or killing patients when sleep-deprived, the Courier-Mail newspaper reported yesterday.

Doctors and lobby groups, however, slammed the advice, saying the recommended consumption would turn doctors into addicts and put the lives of patients at risk.

Public hospital patients have died because doctors have been made to work more than 72 hours at a stretch, their union, Salaried Doctors Queensland, was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Out of the 113 doctors surveyed by the union, about 88 per cent had reported experiencing dangerously high levels of fatigue while on the job.

But in guidelines released by the department, solutions such as hiring more staff were deemed "not be achievable or effective in managing a fatigue risk".

Instead, the document considered the "strategic use of caffeine ... to be beneficial" to help doctors stave off fatigue, the Courier-Mail reported.

"The recommended dosage for a prolonged and significant reduction in sleepiness during a night without sleep has been suggested at 400mg of caffeine ... equivalent to about five to six cups of coffee," the document states.
Caffeine was preferred to other psychoactive drugs as it was more readily available and less expensive, the document added.

Pine Rivers Private Hospital alcohol and drug programme director John Saunders said the department's suggestions were "the height of irresponsibility", and that doctors would become addicted.

While caffeine addiction is significant at 600mg a day, some people would be addicted at 400mg, he said. The measures would also not lower the risk of mistakes for patients.

Australian Medical Association chairman Andrew Pesce said the proper response to fatigue was a shorter working week.

"It would be hard for me to be convinced that caffeine that makes you feel less tired is going to necessarily improve your performance," he told ABC. "We should be focusing on a fundamentally safe rostering system and an acknowledgment that certain minimum number of hours of sleep is what is necessary to maximise performance."

From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 09-Sep-2009