It Never Rains but it Pours

08 Feb 2019

Nerissa Ferrie

by Ms Nerissa Ferrie

Overworked doctor head in hands

Today, we should all take a moment to think of our colleagues in Townsville. Everyday tasks such as following-up results and patient recalls, are put on hold as practices struggle without power and are forced to close their doors in a town which has effectively shut down.

A town in crisis

Townsville practices are calling the MDA National medico-legal line for advice because patient results are piling up, and some semi-urgent results are not accessible due to the loss of power. The doctors in Townsville have been doing all they can to keep their patients safe in incredibly trying circumstances.

The extent of the flooding shocked locals, including GP Registrar Dr Caitlin Rushby who said that whilst the flood situation became more apparent, no one truly expected the devastation that subsequently occurred.

“The day after the peak of the flooding had occurred, almost all non-essential services, businesses and practices were closed which led to difficulty accessing health care by those who needed it the most; the elderly, those with chronic disease, those who sustained injuries during the floods and the hundreds who fled to evacuation centres”, she said.

As we often see during natural disasters in Australia, the floods have brought out the best in the local community. Dr Rushby says that Townsville is a community that is very resilient and has banded together, with GPs, pharmacists and ambulance officers immediately volunteering their time at the evacuation centres.

Supporting our Members

MDA National is sending a medico-legal team up to Townsville for on-the-ground support. Yet this unexpected situation is a reminder for medical practices across the nation to plan for what they would do in the face of a natural disaster, or an unexpected interruption.

How would you cope in a crisis?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and any practice who has been through a natural disaster will be aware of the importance of disaster management. Often, shortcomings in planning will only become apparent in the midst of the chaos.

The Australian College and Rural and Remote Medicine has published an excellent "readiness and recovery” page, including an example of a flood preparation and recovery plan prepared by a practice in rural NSW.

RACGP has published some resources on managing emergencies, including a Flooding Fact Sheet which details some of the clinical aspects which can impact the community following a flooding event.

Whether your practice is in a high risk or low risk area, the time spent on a business continuity plan will be worth the time and effort when the unexpected happens.

On behalf of MDA National and all our Members, our thoughts are with the people of Townsville as they face a long and difficult recovery.

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



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