Legislature passes bill aimed at preventing doctors’ burnout by saying they don’t have to report seeking mental-health treatment

By Sarah Ladd
Kentucky Lantern

A bill aimed at preventing burnout among physicians has cleared both chambers of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 12 unanimously cleared the Senate in late February and the House on Monday.

The legislation would protect Kentucky doctors who seek mental-health help from wellness programs by stating they do not need to report their participation in such a program and can’t be dismissed for not reporting it. It does not mean that physicians don’t need to report conditions that have the potential to hinder their judgment, the Lantern previously reported.

Doctors who testified in committee in favor of the bill said burnout among doctors can lead to lower patient satisfaction, low morale, high turnover, increased rates of substance abuse and even suicide.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, is a physician. He has testified that being able to access private help for stress “without fear of retaliation” is “imperative” for Kentucky’s doctors.

Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Nicholasville, in presentoing the bill to the House, sid it would “have a significant impact for Kentucky physicians.”

“Like many professions over the last few years,” Timoney said, “physicians have seen significant increases in work-related stress both due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the overall demanding nature of their work.”

He said SB 12 will help address this by encouraging doctors to get mental health help when they need it — and promising them confidentiality when they do so.

There was no discussion before a unanimous and bipartisan House vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk for a signature or veto.

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