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Local workforce keeps primary care afloat for flood-affected communities

June 30, 2022

As severe weather and flooding hit the east coast of Australia in early 2022, Darling Downs and West Moreton primary health providers enacted a coordinated response to support their local communities.

Widespread flood damage, unsafe conditions and road closures resulted in limited access to hospitals and increased demand on primary care.

Dr Cath Hester from Colleges Crossing Family Practice said that having access to laptops and digital health tools was essential for facilitating an effective response.

“Our area was completely cut off for over a week, leaving us with a population of 6,000 people under the care of our practice,” said Dr Hester.

“One of the best things we were able to do was use PenCS to identify our most vulnerable patients who were at highest risk of health incidents and offer them support,”

Colleges Crossing Family Practice was also supported by a local resident Queensland Ambulance Officer who assisted with making calls the vulnerable patients. As a result, several patients were airlifted out to receive hospital care, including one woman who required an emergency caesarean section one day after being airlifted out.

“The PHN set us up well to respond to this disaster with access to PenCS, laptops to facilitate Telehealth appointments and their ongoing advocacy of the important role of GPs in disaster management planning,” said Dr Hester.

Other local GPs, Dr Marjad Page from Kambu and Dr Clive Tucker from Riverlink Medical & Dental Centre, also played a significant role in the response. Both GPs attended the Ipswich Showgrounds Evacuation Centre to provide on-the-ground care for locals seeking safety from the rising flood waters.

Throughout the floods, the PHN sent regular disaster alerts to general practices and allied health professionals.

“Enabling our local primary care system to remain connected and responsive is vitally important. The recent floods demonstrated the resilience and determination of our local healthcare workforce,” said CEO Lucille Chalmers.

The PHN is also implementing a new SMS-based Emergency Alerts service to prepare for future times of disaster.

“We heard from local professionals that PHN alert communications are helpful and appreciated. Our new SMS Emergency Alerts will allow health professionals to receive this critical information directly to their phone,” said Ms Chalmers.

All GPs, practice nurses and allied health professionals in Darling Downs and West Moreton are encouraged to subscribe here.