Health sector delivers vital support during bushfires

February 5, 2020

Around 10 health services in Victoria, including a number of aged care facilities, were directly impacted by the bushfires that spread across the state last month, with countless others contributing to relief and recovery efforts.

With fires expected to continue throughout February, and communities facing a long road of recovery, the thoughts of the VHA staff and board are with those who continue to deliver services to their communities, despite the risks and despite many suffering devastating losses themselves.

Health services respond to physical and mental needs of Victorians

Health services play an important role during bushfires, providing emergency healthcare for people suffering from burns, smoke exposure and other related illnesses, as well as providing critical mental health support for people impacted by the trauma.

Metropolitan health services have also been on high alert, with urban areas being exposed to heavy smoke, as well as providing support to their rural neighbours.

The VHA will continue to work closely with its members in fire-affected areas as well as key bodies including Bushfire Recovery Victoria, the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, and state and federal health departments to ensure people affected by the bushfires have access to critical services and resources.

The VHA acknowledges the courageous work of all healthcare staff during the terrible bushfires, including those who remained to care for residents in aged care facilities as fire bore down on them.

Department of Health briefing on national bushfire response

During an initial briefing in January, the Department of Health identified a number of key areas of focus including:

  • Mental Health: The Department has been working with Primary Health Networks in fire affected areas to ensure people have access to mental health and trauma counselling resources. A mobile service unit visiting bushfire affected areas allows personnel to provide immediate support and essential resources. Read more.
  • Aged Care: Aged care has been identified as an area ‘of concern’. In Victoria, five services and 260 residents were evacuated in January. Information about aged care services is available here.
  • Emergency Supplies Prescription Only Medicines: Emergency provisions have increased access to medications, with the special authority enabling pharmacists to supply standard pack sizes (usually one month’s supply) to people affected by the bushfires where it is not practical to get a prescription. The Continued Dispensing Policy has also been amended so more medications are included on the PBS. Information about continuity of access to affordable PBS Medicines for those impacted by bushfires can be found here.

Assistance for residential care and home care providers during  bushfire emergencies

If aged care service providers need help finding vacancies or resources to manage an emergency, please call the Australian Government Department of Health on 1800 078 709. This number is monitored at all times.