Australian bushfires

MIGA support for members - Additional information

Read MIGA’s initial correspondence to doctor members released on 9 January 2020.

14 January 2020

We are shocked and saddened by the devastating bushfires that have caused so much loss of human life, livestock, pets, bushland, wildlife and property across Australia. 

To our members who are providing healthcare services to support your patients and the relief effort at this exceptional time, we recognise and admire the critical role you are playing and will continue to play in your community’s care and recovery over the coming months. We understand this can come at a significant personal and professional cost and that, at times, you may feel overwhelmed by the burden of events and the emotion that accompanies them. 

Below is a summary of information and resources to assist you with looking after yourself, your family and patients if you have been affected by the recent bushfire crisis. Be reassured there are many groups rallying around to ensure that anyone affected has access to physical and mental health care, financial assistance and infrastructure support.

So, whether you are a doctor who has experienced personal loss or works in a community that has suffered loss as a result of the fires, are a doctor looking to offer assistance as a locum or if you just need some guidance on where to get help for your patients, we hope this summary helps. We are always here to support you so if you need to call us, we’d be happy to hear from you.

This is a national summary from the Federal Government. It refers to issues such as lost Medicare cards, accessing medication without a prescription, counselling services, interruption to Aged Care services and impact on health due to smoke.
The Australian Government has also announced a mental health package providing for immediate, short term and medium term mental health support for individuals, families and communities, including emergency services personnel, impacted by the ongoing bushfire crisis.
The General Practice community is working together but specific assistance can be found here: 

Its immediate focus is working with other stakeholder organisations to develop a clear, coordinated approach to the primary care response in affected communities. It is also opening up new services to assist members impacted by the fires, both personally and professionally. You can find more info via the link above.
The National Rural Health Alliance has collated information that may be helpful to anybody living or working in fire-affected communities, including specific resources or information for practitioners and general health advice. 
RACGP has excellent information on bushfire response for providing immediate and ongoing care including:
  • Normal reactions
  • The first consultation
  • Referral
  • Psychiatric syndromes following disaster.
The following are available for anyone in the community and you can use these to refer your patients to or anyone you know of who needs help: The following also offer valuable help and resources:
RACGP Faculty Chairs are working with local disaster management organisations and agencies to determine what support and medical supplies are needed in affected communities. They will work with key stakeholders to ensure efforts are not resulting in unnecessary duplication. 
GPs can contact their local RACGP faculty office to express their interest in locum work and it will pass on your details to the relevant agencies. Alternatively, you can directly contact the agencies listed below.
Rural Workforce Agency Victoria
P: 03 9349 7800 
New South Wales
NSW Rural Doctors Network
P: 02 4924 8000
South Australia
Rural Doctors Workforce Agency
P: 08 8234 8277
If you are a new Fellow of the RACGP and waiting for your documentation, the College has advised the Medical Board is considering fast tracking the finalisation of Completion of Training documentation for those who are otherwise eligible for Fellowship and who want to volunteer as locums in impacted areas. It is hoped that the process, which normally takes 6 to 8 weeks, will be reduced to a single week for GPs who have completed their Fellowship training. If this applies to your situation please contact the RACGP directly. 
Your own health may be affected by the burden of these events. Remember that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, so we encourage you to seek the broad support of friends, family and colleagues, and make use of the Doctors’ Health Service in your home state should the need arise.
We have provided the contact details of the Doctors’ Health Services however, it is important to note that any doctor across Australia can ring any of the doctors’ health programs and their 24/7 phone advisory services.  If you are in Adelaide or on Kangaroo Island, SA and NT’s Doctors’ Health Service has rural GPs taking calls.
The following services are staffed by senior GPs and experienced counsellors trained in doctors’ health.

Doctors' Health Services
NSW & ACT 02 9437 6552
VIC 03 9280 8712
TAS 1800 991 997
SA & NT 08 8366 0250
QLD 07 3833 4352
WA 08 9321 3098
Other resources are available at drs4drs - Getting Help.
One of the best ways to help affected communities is by donating to the following official disaster funds: 
Please call MIGA on 1800 777 156 if we can help in any way. We are here to support and advise you, including for emergencies at any time.

Best wishes

Mandy Anderson
CEO & Managing Director

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