Defining the role of GPs in disaster response

WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) has been successful in Round One of the Disaster Ready Fund, receiving a grant to explore defining the role of general practice in disaster response.

The Fund will support future planning to ensure communities are better prepared, less exposed and in the best possible position to recover when disasters strike.

WAPHA Executive General Manager Primary Care Innovation & Development, Bernadette Kenny, said recent disasters have demonstrated that there is a need to define the role of general practitioners in disaster response.

“The Disaster Ready Fund allows WAPHA to explore the capacity and role of general practice and primary care in WA in the context of disaster and health response.

“WAPHA is the only Primary Health Network to receive a grant in Australia within this first round of funding. It’s important that we take advantage of this opportunity to consult with our stakeholders and create a model that considers the diverse health landscape and unique challenges within WA,” she said.

GP and Australian National University Associate Professor, Dr Penny Burns, has been working, researching, and teaching in the field of disasters now for over a decade and said GPs are well placed to play a key role in disaster healthcare.

“GPs are local health professionals who are in the community caring for their patients through all stages of prevent prepare recover respond activities.

“They are working in the community before disasters strike and remain after other outside responders leave. During the response they can contribute to disaster healthcare for affected locals, and provide coordination and continuity of care, particularly for those with chronic conditions.

“The role of GPs and how they fit within, and communicate with, the broader healthcare response requires careful integration into planning well before any disaster. Integration of GPs as a part of the healthcare team response has the potential to improve community health resilience, and should enhance support and safety of local GPs, who are sometimes responding in a spontaneous ad hoc disconnected manner isolated from the broader health response.

“WAPHA’s project will help provide a clear role for GPs in disaster response and is an important step in the efficient inclusion of general practice healthcare in disasters,” she said.

WAPHA will be reaching out to GPs and other stakeholders once the project is underway. There will be various opportunities for stakeholders to help inform the model design as we explore what the role of GPs in disaster response may look like.

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