Last week I attended the WADEM Congress on Disaster and Emergency Management and presented a paper on the important role Primary Health Networks and General Practice play during disasters and launched our disaster preparedness guide.
Disasters are part of the Australian landscape. Bushfires, floods, cyclones, and drought re-occur consistently across our continent. Primary Health Networks and GPs are inevitably involved when disasters strike their local communities.
Our organisation found itself swiftly playing a vital medical coordination role in October 2013, when large bushfires swept through the NSW Blue Mountains. We worked closely with national health bodies, such as RACGP and the AMA, State and Local Health Services as well as local GPs to assist in the rostering of GPs at evacuation centres and covering general practices that had staff directly impacted by the fires.
The lessons learned by GPs and Wentworth Healthcare during the fires highlighted the need for GP preparedness to improve response and recovery outcomes. Through an iterative process, collaborating with all those involved in the 2013 bushfire medical support management, we have developed discussion documents, as well as procedures and resources that we use to be ready if a natural disaster occurs in our area.
Knowing our region is not the only one that could be affected by disaster, it was a natural progression that we converted our knowledge and resources into an Emergency Preparedness Guide for other Primary Health Networks. Our "Planning for Disaster Management" Guide is now available on our website.
I encourage any PHN, or organisation that supports general practitioners to download this Guide and consider putting in place their own disaster preparedness strategy. We are happy to share the lessons we have learned and the resources we have developed in readiness for supporting our local community and general practitioner response in the future if, or when, the need arises.