Information for general practitioners working in evacuation centres

Introduction

Introduction


The development of this resource has been undertaken by The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) in collaboration with Healthy North Coast (North Coast Primary Health Network [PHN] and Sydney North Health Network [Northern Sydney PHN]). We acknowledge the contributions of Wentworth Healthcare, the provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains PHN.

The RACGP acknowledges the significant contributions from members of the project working group. We also take the opportunity to recognise all general practitioners (GPs) who have generously volunteered their time and expertise working in evacuation centres and supporting communities in time of emergency and disaster.


Emergencies and disasters have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people and communities.1 As essential healthcare providers, GPs play a critical role in supporting individuals and communities before, during and in the aftermath of these events.

As outlined in the RACGP position statement The vital role of general practitioners in disasters and emergencies, general practice has not historically been well integrated into emergency planning, nor effectively utilised; however, work is increasing to improve systems of integration. This is because the Federal Government is responsible for general practice, whereas emergency planning is largely managed by state and territory governments. Overwhelmingly, the experience of GPs and general practice teams working in disaster-impacted areas has been hampered because GPs are not consistently embedded into the wider healthcare response.

PHNs, which are funded by and report to the Federal Government, are increasingly prioritising and playing an important role in disaster planning and response. PHNs are currently best placed to connect GPs to the broader disaster health management response and to evacuation centres as needed.

This resource is made up of two parts:

  • Key recommendations for the inclusion of GPs into evacuation centres, which aims to support agencies responsible for evacuation centres to effectively integrate GPs and their teams into these centres
  • Information for GPs working in evacuation centres, which is a resource for GPs on providing care in evacuation centres.

The RACGP appreciates the disaster management space is constantly evolving. We will continue to refine and update this resource and any supporting materials as required.


It is essential that people can continue to access medical care during emergencies and disasters. Evacuation centres may be required as critical infrastructure during emergencies and disasters to provide for the immediate needs of displaced residents, potentially also including access to medical care. GPs and their teams can play a vital role in assisting with the provision of that care.

This resource provides GPs with:

  • an overview of how evacuation centres are set up and function
  • the potential role of GPs in evacuation centres
  • practical advice for working in evacuation centres.

A supporting resource has been developed to provide guidance on the inclusion of GPs and general practice teams in the planning process for establishing evacuation centres. Together, these resources aim to ensure GPs are included in disaster management planning and response, and support their preparation to work in an evacuation centre.

For the purposes of this document, the following terms may be used interchangeably:

  • ‘emergency’ and ‘disaster’
  • ‘LHD’ (local health district) and ‘LHN’ (local hospital network).


GPs are the key health providers supporting communities before, during and after a disaster event. The long-term connection GPs have with locals, combined with a high demand for general practice services during and following disaster situations, makes GPs crucial to disaster planning and response arrangements. Despite this, there are often no formal arrangements in place to utilise GPs to their full capacity during the response phase of a disaster.

Although many localities have coordinated and well-resourced disaster response mechanisms implemented by local emergency services and LHNs, general practice has not been consistently included and integrated as part of disaster planning and response.

The RACGP continues to advocate for the involvement of GPs in disaster and emergency response plans to ensure a clear, consistent and planned general practice response in future emergencies and disasters. GPs and their teams must be appropriately funded and resourced to undertake disaster planning and response activities. This will ensure the best healthcare is available to support the health and wellbeing of communities impacted by disasters.

PHNs are Federal Government-funded organisations tasked with improving healthcare coordination and ensuring that the health needs of their local communities are met. PHNs should be integral to emergency response planning, coordination and recovery, including the engagement of GPs. However, there is currently no national uniform approach or support for PHNs to undertake disaster planning.

It should be noted that, at the time of publishing this document, the involvement of PHNs in disaster health management is rapidly increasing. Some PHNs have developed their own disaster planning, training and educational resources, including the involvement of GPs and general practice teams in evacuation centres.

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