“What Makes Anaesthetists So Special?”

It is a well-known fact that anaesthetic doctors in South African public hospitals have guaranteed pre-call and post-call.

The medical officers that I know from other surgical departments, all appreciate the reasons we insist on safe working hours. I have never heard them suggest it be taken away.

But management staff and senior consultants (of other specialties) seem to be an entirely different kettle of fish. 

This question was recently raised: What makes anaesthetic medical officers “so special” that their calls are different from other MOs?

There is a litany of reasons to avoid fatigued anaesthetists – but that should never have been the question. 

The question is not why we have it. The real question is why medical officers of other disciplines don’t.

A tired surgeon is just as scary, and just as dangerous, as a tired anaesthetist.

Instead of pitting disciplines against one another, instead of asking what makes us so “special”, those in senior positions should be asking why other medical officers are not afforded this same right. Perhaps, instead of telling their MOs about their 36-hour calls when they were MOs in nineteen-forty-voetsek, the leadership of other disciplines should be fighting to improve the working conditions of their own MOs.

No surgeon wants a tired anaesthetist. But I guarantee you that no anaesthetist wants a tired surgeon, either. 

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