Swiss junior doctors ‘working 56-hour weeks’

More than two-thirds of medical interns and junior doctors in Swiss hospitals are working an average of 56 hours a week in violation of federal labour law, an association of medical employees says.

Swiss junior doctors 'working 56-hour weeks'
Photo: Zurich University Hospital

A survey showed that 69 percent of such hospital workers work more than the 50-hour weekly limit prescribed by law, the Swiss association of interns and resident doctors (VSAO) told a press conference in Bern on Monday.

The survey was conducted during the first three months of the year among a quarter of the association’s 13,000 members.

“These results are saddening,” said Nico van der Heiden, VSAO spokesman told the press conference, the ATS news agency reported.

“They confirm what we have already blown the whistle on in past years, that is to say, massive violations of the labour law in most hospitals in Switzerland.”

Half the employees surveyed said they worked more than the 50-hour maximum established by law in 2005, while a quarter said they put in more than 60 hours a week.

The survey showed more than 52 percent of interns also worked more than seven days in a row, which is also contrary to the law.

The VSAO called on the state secretariat for economic affairs (Seco) and the cantons to strictly enforce the working hours for hospital employees.

Half of the interns surveyed would like their work week to be limited to 42 hours a week.

The difficult working conditions are proving to be a turn-off for some medical school graduates.

A study by the federal office of public health has found that 16 percent of graduates never become doctors.

The VSAO said that more worryingly 38 percent of interns and residents doctors said they noted at least one case of a patient being put in danger because of fatigue of medical workers in the past two years.

However, the Swiss hospital association contests the findings of the medical employees group, ATS reported.

Since the labour law changed in 2005 and 2013, 2,825 intern positions were created, a 60 percent increase, and conditions have significantly improved, the hospital association said.

The VSAO acknowledges that conditions were worse before 2005 but that nothing has changed since its last survey in 2006.

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