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Jul 31 2020

Our Submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements

We welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. 

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

This was a difficult time for many, but living and working in this beautiful region brings with it the challenges of natural disasters, including recent bushfires, drought and floods. We have seen events like these devastate our communities before, and we will likely see it again. 

With each experience we gain knowledge and learn how to better prepare for the future. During last summer, we were more prepared than most as we drew upon our learnings from the bushfires that ravaged the Blue Mountains in 2013.  

As Dr Penny Burns so eloquently said, in her witness statement to the Royal Commission, our Primary Health Network (PHN) has had a leading role in disaster preparedness and, knowing that our region is not the only one that could be affected by disasters, we have shared and promoted our knowledge with other PHNs. Part of this promotion was sharing our Planning for Disaster Management Guide which was particularly helpful for some PHNs during summer fires. 

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. PHNs are skilled at coordinating primary healthcare with other levels of the health system, and we can bring our infrastructure and capacity to the disaster response. However, our role in Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery needs to be recognised and embedded in formal operational relationships.

Our recommendation is that the Federal Government should 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.

We encourage you to read our full submission here

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Photo of Lizz Reay

Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.

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