Updates on the Far North Queensland natural disasters

AMA Queensland has been advocating for increased assistance for our Far North Queensland (FNQ) members, health professionals and communities affected by Tropical Cyclone Jasper and associated flooding.

21 December: President Dr Maria Boulton speaks to Croakey about AMA Queensland's support for FNQ doctors

AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton told Croakey via email that many medical practices have had to temporarily close, and for those that haven’t, they are managing under “very challenging and unique circumstances”.

“What practices need right now is power, telephone and internet services restored. They also need access to medical supplies, antibiotics and vaccines, help with cleaning or rebuilding, and access to disaster grant funding from the Commonwealth Government,” she said.

AMA Queensland has requested urgent support to help practices “get back on their feet”, Boulton said. Read the Croakey story.

20 December: Committee of Doctors in Training Chair Dr Elise Witter gave an update from Cairns

"It's difficult to describe the devastation of these horrendous events, where people have lost their homes, livestock and livelihoods. The physical and psychological damage will endure long after the water has receded. Despite this, locals have responded with incredible community spirit and heartwarming generosity, demonstrating the strength of human connection and kindness in the face of adversity." Read more. 

19 December Dr Lee Jones talks about setting up GP clinic in Yorkey's Knob Boat Club

"Obviously, we don't have all our emergency equipment that we would deal with in a day to day, but we feel that it is an emergency situation and that's why we'll be at the boat club," Dr Jones says.

He says the flooding following the cyclone is like nothing he's ever experienced.

"The amount of rain is unfathomable," he says.

Read ABC News story

We have been in contact with Health Minister Shannon Fentiman, Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard and our networks and provide the following information to assist those on the ground and/or helping family and loved ones in FNQ.

GP Telehealth requirements during natural disasters

  1. Practices are reminded that GP telehealth requirements for established relationships with patients do not apply to people living in a natural disaster affected area once declared by a State or Territory government. The Honourable Mark Ryan MP, Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services has issued a Notice of Declaration of Disaster Situation for the Disaster Districts of Mareeba, Innisfail and Cairns, which include the following local government areas:
    • ​Croydon, Etheridge, Mareeba, Tablelands, Cassowary Coast, Aurukun, Cairns, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Mapoon, Napranum, Northern Peninsula Area, Pormpuraaw, Torres, Torres Strait Island, Wujal Wujal, Yarrabah.
  2. It is possible that local medical practices have been affected by the disaster, but we will know more as the extent of the damage becomes clear. We urge all practices that have not been affected to help those who have, including providing telehealth appointments to patients until affected practices are back up and running. Assistance from practices outside the affected areas may also be needed depending on the number of businesses damaged and we call on everyone who can to provide assistance where possible.

AMA Queensland advocacy – tell us what you need

  1. We are continuing to liaise with the Queensland Government and Health Minister to ensure affected practices and communities get the help they need. This includes urgent restoration of electricity, phone and internet services. The government and Minister have advised that they are working with local disaster response services.
  2. We have also spoken with the Chief Health Officer (CHO) this morning to ensure the government puts effective measures in place to prevent and mitigate the risk of disease and infection during the post-cyclone flood and clean-up period. We know this is a risky time for the community and we don’t want to see the spread of preventable illnesses as has happened during previous disasters.
  3. People in disaster areas will also require help to obtain medications and necessary goods such as baby formula and we have urged the CHO to inform the public of how they can source these vital products. We have also raised the need for increased mental health supports to people affected by the disaster in the short and medium term.
  4. If you have important messages you want us to put to the government, we want to hear from you – please email or phone 07 3872 2222.
  5. We have also been reaching out to members with practices in FNQ to check what help and assistance they need.

Personal Hardship Assistance and Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements

  1. The Queensland Government has extended Personal Hardship Assistance to more communities impacted, including up to $180 for individuals and $900 for families of 5 or more to cover essentials such as food, clothing and medicine. More details are available on the Queensland Government’s website and via the National Emergency Management Agency.

Help for doctors

  1. Doctors’ Health in Queensland has a confidential 24/7 helpline for doctors and medical students to provide support and assistance. Phone 07 3833 4352.
  2. The Medical Benevolent Association of Queensland provides financial assistance for Queensland medical practitioners in times of need. Phone 07 3872 2222 or contact online.
  3. Beyond Blue: Phone 1300 224 636.
  4. Lifeline: Phone 13 11 14.
  5. Keep up to date with the latest flood and weather warnings via the Bureau of Meteorology, local council websites, ABC radio, ABC Emergency and social media options.

Disaster assistance available for small businesses and medical practices

  1. The Queensland and Australian Governments have announced extra assistance for FNQ businesses impacted by Tropical Cyclone Jasper, including grants of up to $50,000 for associated recovery costs and loans up to $250,000 for damaged assets. 
  2. Medical practices can find more information on the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority’s (QRIDA) webpage (select ‘Business’ from the options located above the heading ‘What assistance is available?’) or by phoning QRIDA on 1800 623 946.

Public health flood resources

The Tropical Public Health Service has provided health and safety resources, fact sheets and advice to assist medical practitioners and their patients during the aftermath of floods. These resources can be found here

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