Bushfire information for health professionals

The bushfires are affecting the entire nation and having a considerable impact on the physical and mental health of many Australians.

Experiences range from those directly exposed to the crisis, to those with contact only through what they have seen in the media; both groups may be affected.

Most people recover from such traumatic events but if distress continues, some may need professional assessment and intervention. Those who seek help from a health professional will most often first present to a GP.

In response to the crisis, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has put together a specialised list of resources for GPs and other health professionals. The list includes information on assisting within bushfire-affected communities, the use of P2 masks, providing care and support during disasters, and much more.

Please read on for more information or visit www.racgp.org. au/bush-fires for the full list of resources.

Medicare Bushfire Recovery Initiative

People affected by the bushfires are eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions through GPs, psychologists and other mental health professionals through the Medicare Bushfire Recovery Initiative.

To simplify access to these sessions, patients do not need to have a GP referral or mental health treatment plan.

Telehealth

Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items 2121, 2150 and 2196, which provide rebates for GP telehealth services provided to patients with mental health issues in drought-affected areas, have been expanded to include patients affected by bushfires.

Patients who have been identified by a GP as being affected by bushfire, or who self-identify as being affected by bushfire, are eligible for these services. In addition to people who reside in areas directly affected by the bushfires, eligible patients may include people who reside in areas, which have not been directly affected.

For more information visit http://bit.ly/MBS-changes-bushfires.

Support for your patients

Online support services for the mental health and wellbeing of your patients:

  • The RUOK? website offers advice on supporting friends, family and colleagues through the crisis: www.ruok.org.au.
  • The Black Dog Institute has bushfire mental health information to help link communities to a range of support services: www.blackdoginstitute.org.au.
  • Beyond Blue offers information on looking after yourself following a disaster: www.beyondblue.org.au.
  • headspace has information for young people coping with the stress of natural disasters: https://headspace.org.au.

Support for health professionals

Health professionals will also be impacted by fires and need to look after their own health and wellbeing. GPs may become overloaded by the traumatic experiences of others.

DRS4DRS

GPs can access support via the DRS4DRS website and state/territory based helplines. For more information visit www.drs4drs.com.au.

The GP Support Program

The RACGP GP Support Program provides free and confidential psychological support to members, visit www.racgp.org.au.

Other sources of information

Life in Mind toolkit

Life in Mind team has developed a webpage where relevant disaster toolkits, resources, helplines and information can be found, visit www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au.

Healthdirect bushfire health and safety

Offering practical advice, including how to prepare for a bushfire and how to keep informed. Visit www.healthdirect.gov.au/bushfire-health-and-safety.