Car crashes prompt call to cut hours for doctors

OVERWORKED junior doctors are falling asleep at the wheel driving to and from the job, prompting a union call to cut working hours amid fears for patient safety.
Resident Doctors Association general secretary Deborah Powell said at least seven junior doctors had fallen asleep driving to or from work after working more than 16-hour days in the past 18 months.

In every case, the car went off the road. One vehicle was written off after hitting a lamp-post but none of the drivers was injured. Dr Powell said it was just sheer luck that no one had been killed.
" Do we really have to wait till a doctor crashes across the median barrier driving home from the Hutt and kills another motorist or themselves or a patient before something is done? "
Some junior doctors at Wellington and Hutt hospitals worked long hours with heavy workloads, prompting the introduction of temporary measures to alleviate the problem. She said Hutt Hospital junior doctors in surgery, orthopaedics and gynaecology regularly worked more than 16-hour days or 72-hour weeks. This included on-call time.
The doctors had complained to the union that they were working unsafe hours and they were scared for their own safety as well as that of the patients, she said. As a result patients arriving at Hutt Hospital between midnight and 8am needing surgery, gynaecological or orthopaedic care were now being sent to Wellington Hospital to give the registrars a rest. Dr Powell said that there was concern at Wellington Hospital over the long hours worked by neurosurgery and cardiothoracic surgery registrars and their midnight to dawn shifts were being temporarily filled by locums.
At a meeting between the union and Capital Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards on April 29, several options would be examined in a bid to solve the problems. Dr Powell said the union had similar concerns at hospitals run by the Auckland, Southland and Taranaki district health boards.
Both Wellington and Hutt were busy hospitals which meant in addition to long hours, doctors had heavy workloads. In Hutt, more staff might be needed, which meant more money - "often you run into a problem with safety on one side and money on the other and I think that's what we are running into at Hutt".
Hutt Hospital general manager Warrick Frater said since the measures had been put in place last Thursday, two patients had been sent to Wellington Hospital. It was a complicated issue and trying to recruit more doctors was not the answer, he said, because concern centred on the amount of on-call time and there would not be enough day work for extra doctors. He said registrars had to fulfill certain requirements to qualify in their speciality and he did not want to see a situation where rosters lengthened the time junior doctors took to qualify.
A Capital and Coast spokesman said there was a problem in the sub-specialties and, in addition to hiring locums, rosters were being reviewed......

© 2005 Fairfax New Zealand

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Two Drivers Lose Control of Cars

Two drivers lost control of their cars on State Highway 6 within a short distance of each other early this morning. A 36-year-old Greymouth man suffered minor to moderate leg injuries and was transferred to Nelson Hospital after his north-bound car rolled, crossed the centre line and ended up on its roof about 1am at Glenhope, 45km north east of Murchison.
Constable Jevon McSkimming of Murchison police said it appeared the man had fallen asleep and it was "more than likely'' he would be charged with careless driving.

At about 5.30am and 15km north, a car, believed to be carrying four people, left the road north of the Hope Saddle.
Mr McSkimming said the car failed to take a bend and the driver and occupants ran off before police arrived.
Inquiries were continuing as to why the driver had left the scene, he said.
Tapawera Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Tony Norris said firefighters were called at 6.30am after a passing truck driver raised the alarm.
Mr Norris said it appeared the car had gone off the road backwards. The car was more than 5m down a steep bank and was written off, he said.
said the fire was probably started by a "little darling'', but any evidence was too badly damaged to pursue an investigation......

© 2005 The Nelson Mail

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Four deaths

Driver fatigue was the likely cause of this year's tragic crash on the Para Para Road which saw four young people drown after their car plunged 150 metres into the swollen Mangawhero River.

That was the finding of Wanganui coroner Colin Riddet at yesterday's inquest into the deaths of Russell William Turner, 25, Steffan Whatitua Robinson, 17, Nicole Phillipa Emily Davis, 18, and Shannel Ngaire Paranihi. Miss Paranihi's body was never recovered from the river.

The families of the deceased gathered at Wanganui District Court for an emotional hearing on the June 16 crash. Sergeant Susan O'Neil, presenting the evidence, called constable Karen Chambers who described the details of the crash.
She said emergency services were first alerted at 10.35pm, and once at the scene it was clear a north-bound vehicle had gone off the road on a corner, smashed through a rail and fallen 100 to 150m into the flooded Mangawhero River below. Firemen abseiled down the cliff face to the river bank where they found crash debris including a cell phone and handbag.
Despite an extensive search, nothing was recovered that night, but daylight saw the car, a 1984 Mitsubishi Mirage, recovered from the river, containing the bodies of Mr Turner and Mr Robinson.
The official search continued for some days but was eventually called off. It was family members who discovered Miss Davis body on June 30, 5km downstream from the crash site.
Ms Chambers said the two men had been working as part of a railway gang at Kawaru and had finished work at 4:00pm on June 16 after starting at 7.30am, borrowed a car and drove to Wanganui to pick up the women.
Miss Paranihi was at her mother's house before she left with the others. "She said, 'See you on Friday, Mum', and left'.". Ms Chambers said Senior Constable Peter Bridge of Central District's Serious Crash Unit presented police evidence from the inspection and analysis of the crash site and vehicle. He said three factors were considered including environment, the vehicle and the driver.
"Environment wasn't a factor although the road surface was wet at the time, nor was there any mechanical failure that could have caused the vehicle to drift across the road," Mr Bridge said.
"Whether the driver was distracted or fell asleep is subject to speculation. It's suggested driver fatigue was a factor and the driver would only have had to fall asleep for less than two seconds and it would have been enough for this crash to occur." He said police had not been able to establish who was at the wheel at the time of the tragedy.
Good Health Wanganui pathologists doctors Emmanuel Lucio and Ian Sutherland also gave evidence of their post-mortem examinations of the three recovered bodies. The pair said all three died by drowning after the smash. Mr Sutherland said he believed Mr Robinson had been knocked unconscious in the crash and had drowned without coming to. Alcohol was detected in the blood of all three dead, but none were over the legal limit to be driving. Blood tests also revealed the two men had consumed cannabis in the hours before they died. Mr Riddet then explained that while Miss Paranihi's body had not been found, he had the power as a coroner to declare her dead given reasonable evidence. He said he was convinced she had been in the car and had died as a result of the crash.
"I realise this must be very distressing for those concerned and I do express my sympathy," he said to the families of the victims. "I wish to express my sympathy to all the relatives of these four young people whose lives were taken in this tragic circumstances."
While the men had consumed alcohol and cannabis in the hours before their deaths, Mr Riddet found tiredness was the more probable cause of the crash.
"It is likely one of the two men were driving, but even if one of the women were, there was an element of tiredness."
"They had worked from 7.30am to 4:00pm on the 16th of June and then travelled to Wanganui to uplift the girls."He said they were intent on getting back to Kawaru because they had to start work at 7.30am the next day.
"I have to say that was not a very good thing to do..I suspected tiredness is a greater cause of accidents than is recognised.
"I find each of the deceased died at around 10.30pm in the 16th of June in the Mangawhero River as a result of drowning when they accidentally ran off the road and fell into the river," Mr Riddet concluded......

© 2004 Wanganui Chronicle

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Four killed in the "blink of an eye"

Four killed in "blink of an eye" in a head-on crash on State Highway 10, 1.5km north of Waipapa on September 12. Three other children were seriously injured in the crash.

Type 'four killed in the blink of an eye', into the search box in the top right hand corner of their screen...... id=663

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Petrol Tanker Crashes into Farm Tractor

Sentencing Notes - Papakura District Court

Well Mr R......, again to your credit you have come along to Court, and you have pleaded guilty to careless driving. I guess that falling asleep is something that we see all too often, and I am happy to see or we are happy to see that truck drivers, I guess, collectively are tending now to do something about it because some of these trucks can cause some quite frightening accidents.

You are convicted on the charge of careless driving. You are fined in the sum of $400, and ordered to pay Court costs of $130.00. As to the application for reparation, there are several figures listed in the victim impact statement. They are simply figures produced by the victim. There is nothing in the way of invoices or anything like that to back up any of that, so the Court is not prepared to order reparation at this time......

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