Summer Planning Toolkit modules

Module 2: Caring for vulnerable populations

Caring for vulnerable populations

Caring for vulnerable populations

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have identified the following vulnerable and priority populations who may have additional risk factors during an emergency, as those who:

  • are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • experience homelessness
  • are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • older people
  • identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual, plus (LGBTIQA+)
  • experience mental health conditions
  • are in contact with criminal justice systems
  • inject drugs 8
  • people with disability
  • victims of domestic violence.

Your practice may wish to work with people from vulnerable populations when developing emergency action plans to ensure they are helpful and effective. You might consider:

  • developing emergency warning systems (ie sending text messages to patients to warn them of the impending emergency or encouraging the use of weather alert apps or websites such as the Bureau of Meteorology)
  • establishing relationships with community-based services that can support the homeless population during emergencies or extreme weather events
  • making mental health support available to those with anxiety to prepare in the event of an emergency
  • having emergency contact information close to hand (friends, family, SES, GP, local support organisations)
  • ensuring prescriptions have been filled and medications are available
  • packing a small bag with clothes, toiletries and medications
  • maintaining adequate hydration
  • discussing emergency accommodation options and how the patient will be able to access these if required
  • transport options, particularly where patients do not have a vehicle or licence
  • utilising the RACGP’s Managing emergencies in general practice guide which includes a table to help GPs and patients work together to prepare for emergencies 
  • visiting the Australian Psychological Society’s range of resources to assist in the preparation for and aftermath of emergencies, including the Psychological first aid guide
  • accessing the Australian Red Cross’ resources on preparing for emergencies, including their RediPlan, factsheets for specific groups of people and activities to help individuals and businesses prepare for emergencies.

It is important for practices to consider how they may be able to identify vulnerable groups throughout a natural disaster or emergency. Correct coding of data such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, age and mental health diagnoses will ensure these patients are easily searchable. Other factors such as homelessness or LGBTIQA+ status may be more difficult to record. 

Practices are also encouraged to consider how they may be able to check in on vulnerable populations during an emergency.

Your practice may think about the following strategies when planning for emergencies:

  • performing patient audits to check for missing information
  • creating a database of vulnerable patients and their contact information.

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