Australian Flood and ex-Tropical Cyclone Yasi Disaster Information
The scale of the floods affecting many parts of Australia and their devastating impact on communities is, for many, unparalleled. Now we see the destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasi in Far North Queensland and the floods that have resulted from the cyclone in Victoria and the NT.
The Australian Department of Health and Ageing is working closely with state and territory health authorities, the medical and pharmacy professions, Divisions of General Practice and aged care providers to support those people affected by the floods. On 12 January 2011 we activated the National Incident Room (NIR) to streamline our efforts. In particular we are monitoring the safety and wellbeing of people in residential and community care and we are providing additional mental health services for people experiencing trauma and loss as a result of the floods. We are also making sure that people whose prescriptions or Medicare or concession cards may have been lost in the floods can access emergency supplies of medications from pharmacies. Our Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, is working with Queensland Health and medical provider organisations to support their efforts to protect public health.
The Commonwealth, as the main funder of aged care accommodation and community care has been liaising with residential and community aged care services and relevant state authorities in flood and cyclone
-affected areas to ensure that residents are safe, and to confirm the availability of staff, services and supplies. A number of people in aged care accommodation have been evacuated in Queensland and Victoria and preparations are in place for residents of aged care facilities in the path of extreme weather conditions in the Northern Territory
and depending on their location and support requirements, residents have been relocated to their families, local hospitals, other aged care services or to locations as directed by the State Emergency Service. The Department is working closely with state and territory authorities to support evacuations, including identifying possible alternative residential aged care accommodation.
If you are concerned about a loved one, please contact the aged care provider directly. If you can’t get through, need help or have a general enquiry, please call the Department on 1800 550 552.
Victoria and NT Extreme Weather Conditions Update
By Saturday night (February 5) , seven aged care facilities had partially or fully evacuated residents to alternative accommodation. They are Casey Manor Hostel in Casey, Glendale Aged Care in Werribee, Amaroo Gardens in Knox, Killara Hostel in Koo Wee Rup, Western Port Nursing Home also in Koo Wee Rup, Kronstadt Gardens in Dandenong South and Bayside Hostel in Mordialloc.
A further three facilities are monitoring developments to determine if evacuation will be necessary.
The Department of Health and Ageing has confirmed that evacuated residents have ample staff and supplies and assisted with identified alternative available aged care accommodation. There will be further follow up to ensure that residents are safe and well and to support the approved providers.
The Department is continuing to monitor developments and will assist the management of residential aged care and local emergency management authorities as required.
Mental Health Services
There may be lasting mental health ramifications for some residents in the flood and cyclone affected areas who may have experienced loss or trauma. Most people will recover naturally from traumatic events but it is important that people experiencing emotional distress talk to friends, family or professionals. Contacts include: Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via the Lifeline
website; Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 and Mensline Australia on 1300 789978. To complement the work of Queensland health authorities, the Australian government is working with Divisions of General Practice in Queensland to increase availability of mental health services for flood victims who have experienced trauma or loss, through the Access to Allied Psychological Services Initiative.
Access to essential medicines
The Commonwealth has also been able to assist residents who may have lost their medicines or prescriptions. We are supporting communities in flood and cyclone affected areas through collaboration with Medicare Australia and the Pharmacy Guild to ensure patients have continued, short term access to PBS medicines even if they have lost their prescriptions or Medicare or concession cards. This includes facilitating quick approvals for community pharmacies to trade from new temporary premises, if required, and advising pharmacists what they can do to immediately dispense medicines to affected patients. Relevant information for affected pharmacies is available on the Guild's
website or ring 02 6270 1888.
Access to Doctors
It is likely that many GPs practices will be affected by cyclone damage and to ensure they can continue to provide health services the government has temporarily changed the rules governing locations and provider numbers for General Practices for Far North Queensland as we did for SE Queensland during the floods, to allow continuity of practice. All health professionals with a Medicare provider number, who have had their practices destroyed or badly damaged as a result of the cyclone and other adversities, may continue to use the provider number for that location to provide Medicare services from another temporary location on a short term basis.
Residents who have lost property or belongings as a result of the cyclone and other adversities can obtain their Medicare number from any Medicare office or by calling Medicare Australia on 132 011. No supporting documentation is required, however a security check should be performed. This allows people to continue to have access to Medicare rebated health services provided the person is enrolled in Medicare.
General Practice After Hours Services:
There are 11 after hours GP services funded under the Commonwealth’s General Practice After Hours program which are currently active in the Cyclone Yasi affected region from Mackay in the south to Cooktown in the north. The capacity of these after hours GP services to respond to community need during tropical cyclone Yasi will depend on the impact of the cyclone on the infrastructure and telephone capacity in each of the regions where these services are located.
National Health Call Centre Network – healthdirect Australia (1800 022 222).
The National Health Call Centre Network will support Queensland’s 13HEALTH nurse triage service as needed.
The Department of Health and Ageing subsidises free hearing rehabilitation services and hearing aids for eligible clients (largely children, pensioners and veterans) of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program, through the Office of Hearing Services (OHS). OHS has been working with service providers to ensure continuity of services for clients whose regular provider has been affected by the floods.
In the spirit of good corporate citizens, all large providers have agreed to provide temporary services to those clients with an urgent clinical need whose regular provider is unable to do so. This will include batteries, tubing, repairs and replacements of aids.Clients will be supported to return to their regular provider as soon as that provider is available. Many providers have established telephone transfer arrangements so that clients calling an unattended service will be automatically transferred to an attended phone line run by the provider.
National provider help line numbers have also been established and are held on the OHS
website or can be obtained by ringing the OHS client contact line (1800 500 726). OHS is maintaining a list of service closures and reopenings, and can assist clients to obtain a service when their regular provider is unavailable.
In The MediaHealth concerns in flood's wake
Sydney Morning Herald
- Jan 13, 2011
Acting federal health minister Mark Butler on Friday said states and territories had agreed to provide officers with expertise in environmental and mental ...
Feds step in to support older flood victims
Australian Ageing Agenda
- Jan 12, 2011
... in flood affected areas of Queensland to ensure that older clients and staff are safe. Mark Butler, the federal minister for mental health and ageing, ...
Rising fears of disease outbreak
Sydney Morning Herald
- Julia Medew - Jan 11, 2011
The federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said while the Queensland government was working on immediate crisis support, ...
Risk of deadly diseases for residents
Sydney Morning Herald
- Julia Medew - Jan 11, 2011
Acting Minister for Health and Ageing Mark Butler said although the Queensland government was working on immediate crisis-support counselling, ...
For Health Professionals
(The following information is for Queensland and Victorian health professionals affected by the floods and/or cyclone Yasi)
Queensland floods pharmacist advice (PDF 41 KB)
Victorian floods pharmacist advice (PDF 267 KB)
Resources and support for coping with trauma and grief (PDF 27 KB)
Access to health practitioners for Veterans - lost DVA cards (PDF 20 KB)
Access to Medicare for providers affected by the Australian flood disaster (PDF 23 KB)
Assistance to primary producers and small business (PDF 90 KB)
When accessing large documents (over 500 KB in size), it is recommended
that the following procedure be used:
- Click the link with the RIGHT mouse button
- Choose "Save Target As.../Save Link As..." depending on
- Select an appropriate folder on a local drive to place the downloaded
Attempting to open large documents within the browser window (by left-clicking)
may inhibit your ability to continue browsing while the document is
opening and/or lead to system problems.