Bushfire information and support
Murray PHN’s thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by Australia’s bushfires.
Our teams have been actively working to support general practices and health services located in bushfire affected communities in our region.
Due to our established relationships with the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV), the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Health Primary Health Care branch, we have been helping to coordinate information sharing about service arrangements, issues and needs and importantly to ensure that efforts are integrated and tailored to each community.
Offer or request workforce assistance
It's wonderful that people want to help in times of crisis but efforts must be coordinated, to reduce risks and maintain safety. The best way to get involved is to not present to evacuation centres but to register your interest.
The Department of Health and Human Services has appointed RWAV to act as the health workforce coordination agency to recruit, engage and supply clinical staff to provide relief for existing staff and fill vacancies during the bushfires.
RWAV are also helping to coordinate any offers of assistance from medical practitioners, nurses, allied health and other health professionals who can assist in hospitals, regional aged care and community health care centres. Click here for more information and to register.
Murray PHN also has a role in helping to collect the details of health professional's in our region who are happy to volunteer during times of emergency. Click here to register.
Individuals can also help in many ways click here for ideas on how you can get involved.
Responsible reporting of bushfires
Media professionals are asked to promote help seeking and trauma support resources in their coverage of the bushfires and to ensure responsible reporting, that is, being sensitive to interviewees and their audience, and seeking expert advice for comment. Click here for resources.
Air quality continues to remain a concern. Note that P2 masks are not recommended for general community use and should be limited to those vunerable and at risk of significant health effect of smoke - click here for more information
Rainwater tanks can be contaminated by debris, ash, dead animals, aerial fire retardants and water-bombing. Bottled water should be used if there are concerns about the quality of the drinking water.
Other bushfire related symptoms may include: dehydration and heat exhaustion, burns, respiratory, cardiovascular and renal health conditions.
People experiencing physical health concerns are encouraged to seek medical advice.
Mental health support
It's normal for a traumatic event to affect you emotionally, even if you are not directly affected these events can re-trigger previous memories and emotions. This may even happen weeks or months after.
Murray PHN has taken immediate steps to help support our North East Victorian communities. This includes implementing changes to access and eligibility criteria for primary mental health and psychosocial recovery services that can be accessed through your local GP.
We have also engaged APMHA HealthCare to provide free counselling services and advice options. This service is available between 9am-6pm Monday to Friday by calling 1300 514 811. Click here for more information and here to visit AMPHA HealthCare's bushfire webpage.
More support will be made available to north east communities through The Federal Government's $76 million bushfire relief package that was announced on 12 January 2020. Murray PHN has been allocated almost $2 million that will be used to fund additional mental health nurses, bushfire trauma coordinators and community grants in the north east region.
Information for individuals
If you are in or near a bushfire affected area, keep up-to-date with the latest developments by downloading the Vic Emergency app or visiting the Country Fire Authority Victoria: warnings and incidents, the NSW Fires Near Me website or app, or by tuning into your local ABC radio.
Note that all health practices in the affected regions are now operating normal working hours.
The following relief centres are still open in the North East region:
- Towong Shire Library/Offices, 76 Hanson Street Corryong
- Latchford Barracks, Bonegilla Road Bandiana for relief accomodation only
- Performing Arts Centre Ford Street Wangaratta - by appointment only
- Alpine Shire Council Myrtleford Library, O’Donnell Avenue Myrtleford
For more support:
- Health Direct: Bushfires and your health / symptom checker and health service locator and for 24 hours advice from a registered nurse, call 1800 022 222.
- Health translations: Bushfire smoke and your health (available in 26 languages)
- National Asthma Council Australia: Bushfires and asthma
- Victorian Government: Bushfire factsheets for in the event of, and in aftermath of a fire
- Beyondblue: Bushfires and mental health
- Beyondblue: Looking after yourself after a disaster
- Betterhealth Channel: Trauma - reaction and recovery
- headspace: how young people can cope with the stress of natural disasters
- headspace: how family and friends can support a child after a natural disaster
- Emerging Minds: Community Trauma Toolkit
- UNICEF Australia: How to talk to your children about Australia's bushfire emergency
- Pheonix Australia: Joel and the storm, a story for children who have experienced trauma
- Beyondblue: Bushfires response resource pack for educators
- Department of Human Services: financial assistance
- Victorian Government: Bushfire case support program - supporting personal and social recovery of people and communities, call 1800 560 760.
- Personal Hardship Assistance Program (PHAP) payments are available for emergency relief to help meet immediate needs of households, including emergency food, shelter, clothing and personal items. A PHAP hotline 1800 961 054 is available 9–5pm, 7 days per week.
- Victorian Government: Bushfire Clean-up Program
- Australian Government: Help for Australian bushfire affected businesses, including transport, tax relief measures
Information for health professionals
For treating evacuees and holiday makers who are not your regular patients or for whom you cannot access medical records, My Health Record and SafeScript can be valuable sources of health information, including medicines and allergies.
For more support:
- APMHA HealthCare: Bushfire counselling phone line referral pathways for North East Victoria and poster for how to access support
- The Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub: Community Recovery Handbook
- The Bouverie Centre: Guidelines for trauma-informed family sensitive practice in adult health services
- Australian Family Physician Vol 42, No 9: Early response to psychological trauma and what GPs can do
- Pheonix Australia: PTSD guidelines, including for natural disasters and trauma reactions
- New Medicare items for health professionals to support those affected by bushfires - 12 January 2020
- Chief Health Officer Advisory for health professionals: Health concerns from Victorian bushfires - 3 January 2020
- RACGP: Information for GPs impacted by bushfires
- Every Doctor: Managing immense stress
- AAPM: administrative support for practices that have been affected by the bushfires
- Medici Capital is offering a free business support service for any pharmacy in a fire affected area
- PBS: Expansion of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Continued Dispensing Arrangements to Support Australians Affected by the Bushfire Crisis
- Emergency Response Planning Tool (ERPT)
- Murray HealthPathways: information on the assessment and management of medical conditions, including local referral information including a new burn injuries pathway - note you must be registered and logged in to access.
Page last updated 28 January 2020