Notwithstanding Bill Bryson's characterization of this "sunburned country" as a place in which there are dozens of ways to be killed by local fauna*, the chance of actually dying from a spider bite, snake bite, or in other such manner is quite small. For example, the huntsman above looks pretty ferocious, especially given his 4" (10 cm) span, but he won't kill you.
In contrast, though, Australia shares the unenviable status of other developed countries (US, UK, and the like) in the fact that being a patient in a hospital is a significant risk. I discussed the situation in one Victoria hospital in a previous blog post. There, a number of babies died of a result of preventable medical errors.
In the short time I've been in the country, I've heard several people set forth one aspect of the problem, the existence of inappropriate levels of bullying and intimidation by senior members of the medical staff. Such behavior can directly influence the safety and quality of patient care:
"Most organizations are beginning to understand that this is about patient safety," says Marty Martin, a psychologist based at DePaul University in Chicago. He co-wrote a guide book, Taming Disruptive Behavior [that] details growing evidence linking bad behavior with patient harm.
(Indeed there is reason to believe that such was part of the problem in the aforementioned hospital.)
In a November 21, 2015 article in The Age, reporter Neelima Choahan summarized a day-long summit held by the Australian Medical Association on the topic.
Now comes the question of what to do about it. Shortly after the article, the AMA issued a position statement on the issue. The organization's president said:
“Workplace bullying and harassment creates an unsafe and ineffectual work and learning environment due to the continued erosion of confidence, skills and initiative, and can create a negative attitude towards a chosen career.
“The medical profession must take direct responsibility for its culture, reputation, and standard of professionalism.
“We need comprehensive policy, practices, and education to foster a safe and healthy work and training environment, and we must maintain appropriate standards of patient care.
“Employers and education providers must work closely together to develop a strong response to change the culture in workplaces."
This is a start, but this is a tough problem that has been in existence for decades. Let's hope that the Australian medical profession does indeed "take direct responsibility" for improvement in this arena; but there are important roles for other constituents as well. In particular, there is a nascent patient advocacy movement occurring in this country. With focus and direction, those engaged patients and families can provide respectful and helpful input about the cultural environment in which they are being treated. There is no mention of this resource in the AMA'a position statement or in the president's comments on the issue. It would behoove the AMA to join forces with such individuals and groups to help make the statement of position a reality throughout the country.
"It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures - the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish - are the most lethal of their type in the world."