The Australian Medical Association leads efforts to secure disaster grants for healthcare providers

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Australia’s top doctors’ body is spearheading a campaign to secure increased financial support for health services affected by this year’s floods.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) wants health care across the country to be declared an essential service for the purposes of disaster support and recovery.

He also wants $15 million in grant aid for about 10 private health care providers in the Northern Rivers region who suffered major damage in the February and March floods, and 15 health care businesses who suffered. moderate damage.

The AMA, local doctors and politicians are among those driving the push for better support.(ABC North Shore: Miranda Saunders)

Dr Brian Witt said his clinic had survived 25 floods in its 116 years on the banks of the Wilsons River, but this year the 4.3 meters of water that entered the building destroyed everything.

Dr Witt said the practice had no electricity or telephone for more than three weeks, with all six phone lines being diverted to a cellphone which received more than 3,500 phone calls a day in the weeks following the floods.

He said the clinic provided care to around a quarter of the Lismore community and its downtime had placed a huge burden on the public hospital system.

old building surrounded by flood water
The entire first floor of the Lismore Clinic was flooded earlier this year.(Provided: Lismore Clinic)

Pay to recover

Dr. Witt’s practice was eligible for a $50,000 Small Business Flood Support Grant, in addition to receiving $10,000 from the local Primary Health Care Network.

But he estimated the reconstruction has so far cost his medical practice more than $400,000.

Directly across the river is dairy giant Norco, which has been offered nearly $35 million in state and federal funding to rebuild its ice cream plant.

Dr Witt said he was happy another business was getting help, but said medical services were far more critical.

The advanced corps regroup

The AMA’s call is supported by the Pharmacy Guild, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, NSW Rural Doctors Network and Rural Doctors Association of NSW .

Lismore dermatologist Ken Gudmundsen said he tried and failed to get government help, so he turned to the AMA.

“What we’re doing is bringing it together into one proposal on behalf of all of us,” he said.

“It’s a gift to the government with a little bow over it, to say, ‘Here’s the problem. Here is the solution. Fix it and we can move on.”

“We’ve come to a crisis point, a breaking point, and if we don’t get help, many people will leave…then the city will go into a death spiral.”

A slap in the face’

AMA National President Steve Robson said access to health care is fundamental to the health of a community.

A man in glasses looks at the camera in front of a building
AMA President Steve Robson said health services in Lismore needed immediate support.(ABC North Shore: Miranda Saunders)

“These funding issues are a slap in the face for every person who lives in this area, no less than that,” he said.

“It’s really easy to dribble the ball between state and feds, but someone has to take the lead and fix this for this community today.”

Dr Louise Imlay-Gillespie, chair of the North New South Wales Local Health District Medical Staff Council, said she and her colleagues want to improve outcomes for other communities facing the next disaster. natural.

“For every day that this continues, we have countless patients unable to visit their local GP, with their physical and mental health worsening,” she said.

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