Managing emergencies in general practice

Part A – Introduction to emergency planning in Australian general practice

Appendix 1 – Roles and responsibilities

Last revised: 21 Jan 2020

In Australia, a division of the Attorney-General’s Department, Emergency Management Australia (EMA), is the national lead for disaster and emergency management.

Box 9. Key emergency planning and management tasks and activities undertaken by Emergency Management Australia

Engagement with all levels of government

Communication with all levels of government

Engagement with all levels of government

Provision of financial support and funding in disaster management

Development and maintenance of the National Health Emergency Response Arrangements

Maintenance of the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza

However, there are also a number of other government departments (at national, state/territory and local levels), agencies, authorities and organisations who engage in emergency planning and undertake emergency response activities.
A practice’s emergency management coordinator should have a comprehensive understanding of emergency planning processes and management strategies. This includes an understanding of the roles and responsibilities that the different agencies and organisations play in emergency planning and management.

This appendix explains some roles and responsibilities of organisations involved in emergency planning, response and coordination (which relate to the primary care sector).

In Australia, the primary responsibility for managing and coordinating emergency responses lies with the state and territory governments. Under the Australian Constitution, the Australian Government does not have the statutory authority to provide direction to the state and territory governments on matters relating to emergency management. Therefore, an integrated, collaborative approach between the state and territory governments is critical.

Arrangements for a national health emergency response have been developed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee with assistance from the Department of Health. The National Health Emergency Response Arrangements 2011 (Nat Health Arrangements) outline the strategic arrangements and mechanisms for coordinating Australian health sectors’ response to national emergencies.
 


The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is responsible for coordinating a national response to a range of health emergencies, including a natural disaster, bombing, outbreak of an infectious disease or a chemical, biological or radiological incident. The AHPPC comprises representatives from all state and territory health authorities and Commonwealth defense and emergency services agencies.


The Office of Health Protection (OHP) is a division of the Department of Health and was established to protect the health of the Australian community through effective national leadership and coordination. Additionally, it aims to build the appropriate capacity and capability to be able to detect, prevent and respond to threats to public health and safety.

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The General Practice Round Table is a group made up of relevant professional groups and healthcare organisations. The group meets twice a year and:

  • informs and provides advice to the OHP on the role of primary healthcare in emergency preparedness and response management
  • establishes agreed expectations of members and what they can and cannot do together
  • develops the potential roles of GPs and general practices in different health emergency situations and how they can be best supported in these roles.


The RACGP is the key professional body representing more than 35,000 GPs. It has a key role in advocating for and supporting the profession of general practice.

The RACGP researches, lobbies and advocates on issues that influence GPs and general practice teams. The RACGP also develops practice tools and guidelines to support GPs in their practice.

 


The primary responsibility for managing and coordinating emergency responses lies with the state and territory governments. Under the Constitution, each state and territory government has the responsibility for preparing, reviewing, maintaining and exercising an emergency plan for its jurisdiction.

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Box 10. Key emergency planning and management tasks and activities undertaken by state and territory governments

Engagement with all levels of government

Communication with all levels of government

Maintenance of strong links with emergency services

Development and maintenance of jurisdictional emergency plans

Coordination and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE)

Management of public health

Coordination of agency response (dependent on hazard)

Development and maintenance of pandemic plans


The authorities responsible for planning and responding to disasters and emergencies differ significantly across  the jurisdictions.

Box 11. Authorities responsible for disaster and emergency responses in each state  and territory.

Victoria

Tasmania

Bushfire – Country Fire Authority
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Information and advice: 1800 226 226 www.cfa.vic.gov.au

Bushfire – Tasmania Fire Service / Department of Primary
Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Information and advice: 1800 000 699 www.fire.tas.gov.au

Earthquake – Victoria State Emergency Service (SES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.vic.gov.au

Earthquake – Tasmania State Emergency Service (SES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.tas.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.vic.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.tas.gov.au

Heatwave – Department of Health and Human Services
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Environmental Health Program: 1300 768 874
www.health.vic.gov.au/

Heatwave – Department of Health and Human Services
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Public Health Hotline: 1800 671 738
www.dhhs.tas.gov.au

Human disease – Department of Health and Human Services
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Communicable disease prevention and control: 
1300 651 160 www.health.vic.gov.au

Human disease – Department of Health and Human Services
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 1300 135 513
www.dhhs.tas.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.vic.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.tas.gov.au

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.vic.gov.au

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.tas.gov.au

Australian Capital Territory

South Australia

Bushfire – ACT Emergency Services Agency (Fire and
Rescue / Rural Fire Service)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 13 22 81 http://esa.act.gov.au

Bushfire – South Australian Country Fire Service
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Information hotline: 1300 362 361 www.cfs.sa.gov.au

Earthquake – ACT State Emergency Service (ACTSES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 http://esa.act.gov.au

Earthquake – South Australian State Emergency Service (SES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.sa.gov.au

Flood – ACTSES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 http://esa.act.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.sa.gov.au

Heatwave – ACT Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Health Protection Service: 02 6205 1700
http://health.act.gov.au

Heatwave – SA Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Emergency Management Unit: 08 8226 7115 www.sahealth.sa.gov.au

Human disease – ACT Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Communicable disease control: 02 6205 1700 www.health.act.gov.au

Human disease – Department of Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Communicable disease control:1300 232 272 www.sahealth.sa.gov.au

Storm – ACTSES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 http://esa.act.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.sa.gov.au

 

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.sa.gov.au

New South Wales

Queensland

Bushfire – NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Information line: 1800 679 737 www.rfs.nsw.gov.au

Bushfire – Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
(QFES) / Rural Fire Service
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 13 74 68 www.qfes.qld.gov.au

Earthquake – NSW State Emergency Service (SES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.nsw.gov.au

Cyclone – Queensland State Emergency Service (SES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.qld.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.nsw.gov.au

Earthquake – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.qld.gov.au

Heatwave – NSW Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Public Health Unit: 1300 066 055
www.health.nsw.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.qld.gov.au

Human disease – NSW Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Public Health Unit: 1300 066 055 www.health.nsw.gov.au

Heatwave – Queensland Government
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 13 74 68 www.qld.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.nsw.gov.au

Human disease – Queensland Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Communicable Disease Branch: 07 3328 9724 www.health.qld.gov.au

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.nsw.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.qld.gov.au

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.ses.qld.gov.au

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Bushfire – Department of Fire and Emergency Services
(DFES) / Department of Environment and Conservation
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Information line: 13 3337 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Bushfire – Department of Environment and Natural
Resources
Life-threatening emergency: 000 https://denr.nt.gov.au

Cyclone – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Cyclone – Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency
Services (PFES)
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.pfes.nt.gov.au

Earthquake – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Earthquake – PFES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.pfes.nt.gov.au

Flood – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Flood – PFES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.pfes.nt.gov.au

Heatwave – Department of Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 08 9222 4222
http://healthywa.wa.gov.au

Heatwave – Department of Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000 General enquiries: 08 8999 2400
https://nt.gov.au/

Human disease – Department of Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Disaster Management: 08 9222 4222 / 08 9328 0553 (a/h) www.health.wa.gov.au

Human disease – Department of Health
Life-threatening emergency: 000
Centre for Disease Control (Darwin): 08 8922 8044 https://health.nt.gov.au

Storm – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Storm – PFES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.pfes.nt.gov.au

Tsunami – SES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.dfes.wa.gov.au

Tsunami – PFES
Life-threatening emergency: 000 Emergency assistance: 132 500 www.pfes.nt.gov.au

 

Box 12. Key emergency planning and management tasks and activities undertaken by local governments

Engagement with all levels of government

Communication with all levels of government

Maintenance of strong links with emergency services

Development and maintenance of regional emergency plans

Establishment and maintenance of strong links with PHNs and general practices

Coordination of agency response (dependent on hazard)


General practices

General practices are a unique, important and essential component of health system infrastructure. GPs play an ongoing critical role in emergency management and response from the immediate/acute phase to the long-term recovery phase. GPs also play a key role in triage, coordinating care for patients between other service providers, and managing ongoing chronic illness, general health issues and other illnesses arising both during and after an emergency.

During an emergency, GPs may need to look after patients with medical conditions that would otherwise be referred to hospitals (eg heart attacks) as hospital services may be exhausted by patients affected by the emergency.

Similarly, the profession also plays a key role in educating community members and providing patients with quality health information in preparing for an emergency.

Primary Health Networks

PHNs are local organisations and are directed by local clinicians and other community health leaders. Given that they are regional primary healthcare organisations, they are responsible for data collection and identifying gaps in services and vulnerabilities in patient populations for their region. PHNs have been identified as the most appropriate organisations to support primary healthcare facilities in developing emergency response plans and business continuity plans.