The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging governments to provide immediate support for essential health services in Lismore and surrounding communities still struggling to recover from the devastating floods.
In a show of solidarity, the RACGP has partnered with healthcare organizations including the Australian Medical Association, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Pharmacy Guild, President of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District Medical Staff Council and the Northern Rivers Physician Network to seek federal and state support for the Rural Physician Network Health Care Recovery Grant proposal. NSW.
President RACGP Deputy. Professor Karen Price said urgent action was needed.
“The recent catastrophic flooding in Lismore and surrounding Northern Rivers communities damaged 25 primary care services, including surgeries, dental practices and a pharmacy, many of which were affected by previous flooding,” it said. she declared.
“It is deeply concerning that many of these essential health services are now considering closing their doors and leaving the region, as they have not been able to access sufficient or timely subsidies, which they must recover.
“Closing these services would be devastating to the local communities they serve. Health statistics show that regional and rural communities have worse health outcomes, which would make matters worse.
“I urge governments to provide immediate support to health services in need to ensure they can keep their doors open and continue to care for their patients.”
The RACGP President said the College has long urged governments to implement reforms to help GPs care for communities affected by natural disasters.
“As Australia’s largest representative body for GPs across the country, the RACGP has long argued that GP should be recognized as an essential service during disaster recovery,” she said.
“This is essential to ensure that practices are prioritized to receive immediate access to any necessary support so that they can rebuild, recover and ensure continued access to care for their patients and communities.
“An emergency relief fund should also be in place for general practices and access to emergency funding should be easy and with minimal red tape. Because currently, general practice is not well supported by federal or state and territory governments in the event of a disaster.
“We have also called for GPs as frontline healthcare providers to be formally recognized in all national disaster arrangements in Australia and incorporated into contingency plans across the country, particularly in rural areas.
“GPs play a key role in helping their communities in disasters, including immediately after and throughout recovery, but currently their involvement is informal. If general practice were properly included in disaster planning, including including planning, preparation, exercises and subsequent debriefing, it would make a real difference to the communities.
“General practitioners in disaster areas also tell us that allowing unlimited prescription of medicine from the doctor’s kit would make a real difference for patients. The PBS currently allows prescribers to provide certain drugs to patients free of charge for emergency use, but prescribers are limited to a maximum amount of drugs. It doesn’t make sense because we should make access to care and prescription drugs as easy as possible for those experiencing such difficulties.
RACGP NSW chair Dr Charlotte Hespe said flooding in Lismore and surrounding communities had been devastating to essential health services.
“These recent floods, which came so soon after previous disasters, have been absolutely devastating for the affected communities,” she said.
“Recovery has been slow and difficult for community members, and we also know it has been incredibly difficult for essential health services, many of whom did not have flood insurance because it is not unavailable or unaffordable.
“If essential health services are forced to close because they cannot get the support they need, this will not only impact the physical health of people who need it, but also have a profound impact on the Mental Health.
“Residents of Lismore and surrounding areas continue to face significant mental health effects from the flood disaster. If they lose the local GPs who provide ongoing advice and support, as well as referrals to other specialists when people need them, it will have a detrimental impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“Governments must recognize the seriousness of this situation and immediately provide the necessary subsidies to the health services that need them. Because sustainable health services are fundamental to the health and well-being of communities across Australia.
The RACGP submission to the Royal Commission on National Disaster Arrangements can be viewed here.
Details of the final report of the Royal Commission on National Disaster Arrangements (Bushfire Royal Commission), which included a recommendation supporting RACGP’s calls for greater involvement of GPs in disaster management , can be found here.
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