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AMA (NSW) and RDN call for immediate grant funding to health services in response to flood report

17th August 2022

“Given the necessity of these healthcare services, we expect the State Government will seek to make improvements to the grant funding process when it responds to the 2022 Flood Inquiry report,” he added.

AMA (NSW) supports the NSW Rural Doctors Network's (RDN) Healthcare Flood Recovery Grant Proposal which would create a Northern Rivers healthcare business grant.

Both organisations belong to the NSW Rural Health Natural Disaster and Emergency Stakeholder Group, a consortium of health stakeholders that has been working together to help communities and practices rebuild in the aftermath of the floods.

The Northern Rivers healthcare business grant would be open to all 2022 flood-affected non-government health services and would cover the losses faced by those businesses, including lost income. The proposal also calls for a fast-tracked approval process that would provide urgent and immediate security and certainty for businesses to rebuild.

“This is about ensuring the flood-affected communities have access to health services and health professionals. These are essential services. Unfortunately, when GP and other primary health services close down or leave, there is no one filling the gap. Our proposal enables a short-term solution to keep the doors open. We look forward to working with the government and the AMA to ensure the community’s primary health needs are met for the longer term,” said Mike Edwards, Acting CEO RDN.

Additionally, AMA (NSW) supports RDN’s call to make healthcare businesses immediately eligible for the current $200,000 Northern Rivers medium-sized business grant, regardless of the number of staff the service employs.

“Based on the current eligibility requirements, health services in the Northern Rivers area are limited to applying for a small business grant of $50,000 – which is a paltry amount when compared to the costs health providers face in order to repair their businesses. Some healthcare businesses are looking at damages of upwards to a $1 million,” Dr Bonning said.

“The current measurement used to determine grant funding completely fails to take into account the necessity of the service being provided by that business.

“Inadequate and delayed grant funding to health services in Northern NSW is having a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of community,” Dr Bonning said.

“Doctors and nurses are still pulling up lino and scrapping paint off walls almost half a year after the flood crisis – this is time that could and should be spent with patients.

“The trauma from this event is having a profound impact on the mental health of residents in Lismore and Ballina and the ability of medical and allied health professionals to assist the community is severely compromised because they don’t have appropriate facilities.”

There are an estimated 10 non-government healthcare businesses with a high level of damage in the North Coast region and a further 15 healthcare businesses with moderate damage.  AMA (NSW) and RDN are calling on Government to contribute $15m in immediate grant funding to restore these health services.

“The amount needed to ensure the viability of these healthcare services is small when compared to the downstream cost of providing healthcare in hospitals for patients who present in five years for conditions that could have been prevented or better managed in general practice or primary care now,” Dr Bonning said.

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