Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Too hot, heading south: how climate change may drive one-third of doctors out of the NT
A sizeable chunk of Northern Territory’s doctors are thinking about leaving the territory because of climate change, our new research shows.
Our study, just published in The Lancet Planetary Health, shows for 34% of doctors in our survey, climate change is already, or is likely to, make them consider leaving the NT.
If they do, this would leave a large gap in the territory’s health-care system, which already suffers from a fast turnover of staff. These doctors would leave behind communities already suffering from the effects of climate change.
From the study;
The Northern Territory is being increasingly exposed to extreme heat, water insecurity, and violent storms.3, 6 In December, 2019, and January, 2020, the temperature in the Northern Territory was almost 4·0°C higher than the long-term average, and in 2019, Katherine, the third largest town in the Northern Territory, recorded 54 days of temperatures above 40°C;6 extreme heat that is associated with considerably increased morbidity and mortality.3, 4 Poorly maintained and overcrowded housing, energy insecurity, lack of air conditioning, and substantial socioeconomic disadvantages aggravate the health risks of the population in these areas, particularly among Indigenous communities with high rates of chronic disease.3
What is going on?
The idea that climate change is a threat to doctors is absurd. Even prefabricated temporary structures have air conditioners.
My guess is a bunch of liberal city educated doctors had a good hearted impulse to travel to Australia’s blistering hot far North to help deprived communities. But when they got there they quickly realised it was too much for them – the ongoing threats to personal safety, aggressive bullying, having to treat a steady stream of drug psychotics and violent alcoholics, ugly overdose deaths, people constantly trying to scam them for pills, witnessing ongoing drug fuelled brutality, incest and rape, the lack of anywhere safe to relax after work, people following them home, all of this overwhelmed their gentle urban liberal sensibilities.
How does a traumatised urban liberal back out of such a disastrous personal choice? If they come clean and say “it was too much for me”, they look weak – their cancel culture “friends”, who have no idea what its really like in some of Australia’s remote communities, could accuse them of being insufficiently committed. But if they are victims of climate change, they wanted to help, but it was our global failure to address the great moral challenge of our time frustrated their good intentions. Instead of looking weak, they can claim to be climate refugees.