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Primary Health Care put on Senate Committee Disaster Resilience agenda

28th February 2023

The Senate Select Committee on Australia’s Disaster Resilience was asked to inquire into Australia’s preparedness, response and recovery workforce models as well as alternative disaster recovery models. The inquiry will consider the role of the Australian Defence Force, volunteer groups, not-for-profit organisations, state-based services, and the support required to improve Australia’s resilience and response to natural disasters.

The NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) made a submission focused on Primary Health Care (PHC) and its integration into secondary health care during an emergency.  In its submission, RDN said it believes Australia needs to change its dependence on the ADF to deliver PHC during a natural disaster.

PHC providers are predominately small businesses. Efforts must be made to see these providers at the front of the disaster response and recovery effort. Where emergency support comes in over the top, we have seen a negative flow on short and long-term consequences for PHC providers regarding patient care continuity and business sustainability.

The submission highlighted the successful work done by the NSW Rural Health Natural Disaster and Emergency Stakeholder Group. It said it demonstrates a way forward to transition away from dependence on the ADF for PHC in a natural disaster and the ability of the health sector to work together to deliver the proper response. It also enables a more community and localised focus approach and helps enable the ADF to concentrate on its primary aims and regional and international responsibilities.

RDN’s Director of Engagement, Jeremy Mitchell, said, "Primary Health Care is an essential service. The Stakeholder group that brought together a wide range of health organisations was effective during the bushfires and floods. We hope this inquiry will highlight the need to formalise the role of Primary Health Care in government Emergency response planning and enable a greater role for local community health professionals in the planning and delivery of disaster responses."

Download: RDN Submission.

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