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Where are general practitioners when disaster strikes?

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GPs, inevitably involved in disasters, should be appropriately engaged in preparedness, response and recovery systems

In the past two decades it is estimated that Australians have experienced 1.5 million disaster exposures to natural disasters alone.1 General practitioners are a widely dispersed, inevitably involved medical resource who have the capacity to deal with both emergency need and long-term disaster-related health concerns. Despite the high likelihood of spontaneous involvement, formal systems of disaster response do not systematically include GPs.

An Australian Government review of the national health sector response to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza suggested: “General practice had a larger role than had been considered in planning”.2 It commented that “structures . . . in place to liaise with, support and provide information to GPs were not well developed”; personal protective equipment provision to GPs was “a significant issue”; and planned administration of vaccinations through mass vaccination clinics was instead administered through GP surgeries.2

GPs are well positioned to help

As of the financial year 2013–14, Australia had 32 401 GPs,3 distributed through rural and urban communities. GPs are…