Most professions have industry-specific causes of serious concern. Having worked with many medical professionals over the years, including doctors, surgeons and dentists, we understand that this is certainly true within the medical industry. One such concern that has been commonly raised with us is needlestick injuries.
The risk of transmission of blood borne pathogens via contaminated blood is an area of concern that our clients in the medical industry have repeatedly brought to our attention. Medical professionals are at risk of exposing themselves to diseases such as hepatitis B and C as well as HIV when handling needlesticks, and the resulting health risks are obvious. But beyond this, the potential inability to practise in the months that may follow an incident can also have a significantly detrimental impact. Understanding the implications this issue could have for you and your ability to work as well as having mechanisms in place to make sure you are appropriately prepared and protected is crucial.
Immediate post-injury considerations
Exposure incident risk management protocols have retained their prominence in modern medical practice management guidelines. Under workplace health and safety legislation, it is a requirement for all exposure incidents to be recorded and follow-up tests offered after a significant exposure incident. Blood samples for testing obtained from the source (i.e. the patient) wherever practicable is advised and post-exposure prophylaxis may be available from public hospitals.
Inability to practise
However, what about the impact that a blood borne disease or needlestick injury has on the ability of a medical professional to practise and continue earning an income? After an exposure incident occurs, there is potentially a stressful waiting period whereby blood testing takes place to determine if any blood borne disease was transmitted. In this scenario, if you are given the all clear medically, you may still be left short financially (depending on your employer and employment arrangement), with insurers not covering this period of time off work. This coverage inconsistency underlines the importance of having an appropriate emergency fund that can account for expenditure if you are unable to work. There’s no exact magical amount – everyone has different circumstances so while some might be comfortable with $25,000, others might require $100,000.
Regardless of whether you are an employee or self-employed, protecting yourself against loss of income arising from the very real occupational hazard of a blood borne disease or needlestick injury is therefore critical as a medical professional. So, what are your options to protect against the risk of loss of income?
Protecting your income
The best approach is to seek professional life risk insurance advice. Be very cautious if your income protection cover is held via a superannuation fund (as needlestick clauses are often not permitted or included when income protection is held in this structure) and similarly ‘direct’ policies (which are typically poorer quality and distributed via internet or call centres). Approaching a qualified, licensed financial adviser specialising in this area of insurance and who can compare the full ambit of bespoke risk products designed for professionals is likely the best approach.
In your line of work, the risk of needlestick injury is ever-present. We know that preparing and protecting yourself in case of an incident requires time and money, but it also makes many of the challenges that may arise down the track much easier to deal with.
We have had the pleasure of working with many city-based and regional medical professionals over the years – from doctors to dentists to orthodontists plus more. This has allowed us to develop first hand insights into the specific issues and opportunities medical professionals face. In doing so, we have worked hard to develop bespoke strategies that tackle these distinct complexities, in part through establishing connections with external providers who are able to accommodate for the needs of our medical client-base. Our firm has one of the largest panel of insurers in the Australian advisory market, including many household names along with some of the more niche, newer entrants (some who have the ability to share annual profits back with insured dentist members and others who can offer up to $3M in cover for blood borne illnesses). If you’d like further information, please get in touch.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and is not intended to constitute financial product advice. Any information provided or conclusions made, whether express or implied, do not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of an investor. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice.