Bushfire information for primary care in Melbourne’s north west.
Page updated 16 January 2020.
We know many people have friends and family affected by the bushfires. Our thoughts are with people in the affected areas, firefighters, first responders, primary care workers and everyone experiencing this crisis.
This page will be updated as more information comes to hand.
How health professionals and primary care workers can help
Hospitals and other health providers in east Gippsland and north east Victoria are experiencing staffing challenges due to the bushfires. This is expected to increase as the situation continues to evolve. Visit the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria website to find out how you can help.
Speeding up the process to get doctors to bushfire-affected communities
The Department of Health has announced emergency protocols to expedite the process of getting GPs and allied health workers to bush-fire affected communities where they are needed the most. Doctors who are unrestricted in where they can work and allied health professionals can work at a new practice for up to two weeks, using their existing Medicare provider number. More information is available here.
Support for your patients affected by the crisis
CAREinMIND™ mental health services
CAREinMIND provides access to a range of free mental health services in the north western Melbourne area, through CAREinMIND central referral, intake and assessment. Find out more on the System of Care page.
Increased demand for CAREinMIND services
A number of children and families have been relocated to Melbourne after being displaced from their own homes in NSW. These families are staying in various hotels within the CBD. North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network has been approached to provide mental health support for these people.
This factor, combined with our experience of previous fire events, indicates that there will be an increase in referrals CAREinMIND services for those affected by the bushfires for some time into the future.
We have asked CAREinMIND service providers to accommodate any referrals for these displaced families with a sense of priority, but without placing existing clients at unnecessary risk. We have also asked providers to increase their availability to accept any of these referrals, particularly those working in the CBD area.
From a triage perspective, we will be prioritising referrals we receive regarding people affected by bushfires, regardless of income.
Using HealthPathways to support patients affected by bushfire smoke
As summer has only just started and hazy conditions are expected to continue, be sure to access the following pathways for evidence-based guidance to support your patients who are suffering from smoke exposure or may need to be referred onto mental health services.
- Acute Asthma in Adults
- Acute Asthma in Children
- Acute Exacerbation of COPD
- Adult Psychological Therapy and Counselling
Information about bushfire smoke and masks
The Acting Chief Medical Officer has released statements on reducing the risk of exposure to bushfire smoke and the use of masks. Visit the Department of Health website for the latest information.
Mental health support package to provide immediate mental health services in fire affected communities
The Federal Government has announced a $76 million package to fund free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and tele-health consultations, an expansion of headspace services for young Australians, and community recovery initiatives. More information is available on the Department of Health website.
Community Asthma Program
The Community Asthma Program is available for children aged between 1–17 with asthma or Ventolin responsive wheeze. Any health professional can refer and self-referrals are also welcome.
More information and a referral form are available on the cohealth website.
Other ways you can help
Unless you are responding to a specific request for goods or services, the best thing you can do to help is to donate cash to these organisations:
- Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery
- VIC Bushfire Disaster Appeal
- Country Fire Authority
- Wildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal
- Zoos Victoria Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund
Appeals are also available for other parts of the country – more information is available here.
If you are unable to donate cash, giving blood is a very helpful thing to do.
Have a spare bed?
Many people and their animals now need somewhere to stay. Find A Bed has been set up as a place where people with a spare bed and people who need a place for themselves or their animals can connect.
Remember to take care of yourself and each other
Bushfire season is a stressful time for many people and the aftermath of this crisis will continue for some time. Remember to look after yourself and those around you and seek assistance if needed.
Wellbeing Support Services
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, grief, loss, sadness or stress, CAREinMIND™ Wellbeing Support Service offers free 24/7 telephone or online counselling to people living, working or studying in the NWMPHN region. No referral is needed. Call 1300 096 269 or visit careinmind.com.au to access free support.
Other helpful links
- Beyond Blue has developed a website hub with information about mental health and bushfires. Access their online chat service for counselling and emotional support
- Red Cross has a web page with tips about how to look after yourself in a crisis and how to support children
- Healthdirect has a bushfire health and safety information hub
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement developed this resource after the 2009 bushfires – it remains relevant in 2020