You will have heard about the catastrophic bushfires sweeping across Australia since September last year. The bushfires have sadly taken the lives of approximately 25 people to date, and have destroyed around 6.3 million hectares (63,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks. The state of New South Wales (NSW) has been the worst-hit, with fires destroying more than 1,300 homes and forcing thousands of residents to vacate the area and seek shelter elsewhere.
While those in rural areas have borne the brunt of the impact of the fires, we know that those in urban areas are also experiencing harm. In Syndey, for example, the fires have created a strong haze of smoke over the capital city – the NSW Government has advised residents to remain inside as much as possible, with air quality degenerating to hazardous levels.
Our deepst condolences go to those who have lost loved ones to the fires, and to all those who continue to be affected by the tragedy. We have reached out to our colleagues at The Royal Australian Collge of General Practitioners (RACGP) and The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to offer our support and condolences, and we are willing to help in anyway we can.
As you can imagine, health care workers in Australia, including our GP colleagues, have been working hard to care for those affected by the fires and may be under increased pressure to keep up with an influx of patients. Of course, those on the frontline of care provision for the injured will be working under particularly stressful conditions, and we would like to express our support and gratitude for the work they are undertaking.
Dr Penny Burns, GP and disaster medicine specialist from NSW says for a lot of GPs in Australia it will be about trying to manage patients’ chronic conditions, which may be exacerbated by the bushfires.
“Those with chronic conditions need their medications and may have an increased risk of exacerbations or deterioration, so they need monitoring,” she says. “This is especially true for those with hypertension and diabetes.”
GPs are often the first port-of-call for mental and physical health needs after a disaster, so we know our colleagues in Australia will be under increased pressure during and in the aftermath of the fires.
How can New Zealand GPs help?
There are several ways you can offer your support to those affected by the bushfires, and you’ll find these on the RACGP website or the ACRRM website.
If you wish to provide GP support in impacted areas, you can contact these agencies:
Rural Workforce Agency Victoria
P: 03 9349 7800
New South Wales
NSW Rural Doctors Network
P: 02 4924 8000
Rural Doctors Workforce Agency
P: 08 8234 8277
You can also donate to the following official disaster fundings to offer your support:
For more information about the bushfires and how you can offer your support, visit the RACGP website
or the ACRRM website
You may also like to check out the RACGP’s newsGP platform
for up-to-date articles on the bushfires.