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Greater inclusion of primary healthcare needed

Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, has welcomed the Royal Commission into National Natural Disasters recommendation that primary healthcare providers should have greater inclusion into disaster planning processes.

The Nepean Blue Mountains region was one of many to be affected by the 2019-20 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires that tore through homes, businesses and communities. 

Wentworth Healthcare is well versed in Disaster Planning and Response, following its experience with the 2013 bushfires. The lessons learned during the fires highlighted the need for GP preparedness to improve response and recovery outcomes, prompting the organisation to develop a ‘Planning for Disaster Management’ resource, which it shared with other Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia during the most recent disaster.

Lizz Reay, CEO for Wentworth Healthcare said, “Since the devastating 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires, our organisation has taken the lead in supporting the role of GPs in a disaster and has been advocating for an integrated approach to disaster planning that recognises the important role of primary care providers.”

“Through an iterative process, collaborating with all those involved in the 2013 bushfire medical support management, we developed discussion documents, as well as procedures and resources to ensure we are ready if (or rather, when) a natural disaster occurs in our area. These guidelines were ‘road tested’ in the 2019/20 bushfires and has meant that as an organisation we were better prepared for this most recent crisis.”

Earlier this year, Wentworth Healthcare welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. One of the key recommendations they made was to recognise and resource the role of PHNs in preparing and coordinating the Primary Care Response to Natural Disasters going forward, and support inclusion of the role of PHNs in National, State and Regional emergency management plans.

“Our experience in this area has shown us that there are significant issues that could be resolved by recognising and incorporating PHNs into the national health coordination arrangements,” said Ms Reay.
 
The Royal Commission Report has made over 80 recommendations, one of which related to the coordination of primary healthcare through all phases of disaster planning and management.
“Primary healthcare providers and PHNs can play an important role in supporting health responses during and following natural disasters. Primary healthcare providers and PHNs should be included in disaster planning processes at the local, state and territory and national levels, as appropriate,” the report said.

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