Key recommendations for the inclusion of general practitioners into evacuation centres

Key recommendations

Recommendation 2

Recommendation 2: Registering GPs for deployment at an evacuation centre/willingness to scale-up services

To support agencies to access GP services when required, PHNs should establish a list of GPs and other general practice team members who are willing to assist when an evacuation centre is activated. PHNs can identify those willing to assist via an expression of interest (EOI) process to all general practices in the region.

The EOI could also be used as an opportunity to identify practices with capacity and willingness to scale-up service provision (in the event of a disaster where their premises and staffing have not been impacted) and could provide clinical and administrative space to other general practice clinicians and staff whose practices have been disrupted.

Those willing to assist should receive appropriate training prior to being deployed to assist in an evacuation centre (see Recommendation 6: Training to prepare for work in an evacuation centre).

The register should include:

  • disaster training undertaken
  • confirmation of clinical credentials
  • other relevant qualifications
  • vaccination history
  • medical indemnity insurance coverage
  • availability
  • contact information preferences.

Clinical credentials

Any Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra)-registered GP or nurse actively working in general practice (without relevant conditions, restrictions or supervision requirements) is eligible to provide services in evacuation centres. 

PHNs should review the Ahpra Register of practitioners to ensure GPs who have submitted an EOI are allowed to practise and do not have a type of registration or conditions that would limit their ability to work in an evacuation centre. This check could be conducted periodically to ensure credentials are up to date.

Maintaining the register

PHNs should maintain ongoing engagement with those on the register (eg via regular newsletters, reports on local disaster events and preparedness activities, regular training update sessions).

Regularly confirming contact information is important to ensure effective and targeted communications at critical times, such as the time preceding high-risk disaster periods, during any disaster actualisation and in recovery.

Activating the register

GPs should be contacted as soon as possible to determine who has capacity to assist. If multiple evacuation centres are being established, GPs should be able to nominate the centre they wish to be rostered for, recognising this may not always be possible.

Deploying general practice teams

Although it is usually GPs who will be called on to assist in evacuation centres, in some circumstances it may be valuable to deploy a small general practice team. This could include a practice manager, a practice nurse and other relevant support staff. Teams may or may not come from the same practice as the GP.

Team members deployed to support GPs can, as appropriate:

  • assist with the assessment and management of patients seeking care
  • provide administrative support to capture patient details
  • ensure medical supplies are available and restocked as needed
  • support interactions with other healthcare services.

When supported by a team, GPs can focus on delivering clinical care to patients. A register could capture information about the availability of other team members willing to support GPs working in an evacuation centre.

Managing unregistered volunteers

There could be instances where GPs who have not registered their interest to be part of the disaster plan will offer their services during the disaster. As part of the planning process, PHNs should consider how these offers will be managed. Ideally, the implementation of the guidance in this document should minimise these ad hoc offers of assistance.

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