Flood cleanup begins

Residents and workers in flood-affected Queensland and New South Wales begin the big clean up. Elsewhere the Australian Medical Association says Australia is poorly-prepared to cope with extreme weather-related health problems.

Above: Blue Care’s neighbouring residential aged care facilities Millbank and Riverlea in Bundaberg taken at the peak of the floods on Tuesday afternoon

As the cleanup begins in water-drenched Queensland and northern New South Wales, one aged care provider is reporting an inundation of snakes rather than water inside its facilities.

Flood waters in affected areas have begun to recede in the aftermath of rains trailing ex-tropical cyclone Oswald leaving behind mud and debris for locals to clear.

Staff and residents at Blue Care’s facilities in Bundaberg and Logan, both in Queensland, remain on alert but the provider reports it has so far escaped major internal flood damage at their 260 sites across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Water lapped Bundaberg’s Riverlea and Millbank aged care facilities but it was snakes that found their way in, said Robyn Batten, Blue Care executive director.

“We had eight unwelcome visitors in our lower lying buildings, so it was fortunate residents and staff were high and dry in the buildings higher up on the site,” Ms Batten said.

“The priority for us now is to focus on cleaning up, making repairs and doing safety checks so residents can return to their homes in the facilities’ lower lying buildings by the weekend.

“We will also continue to provide assistance and do whatever we can to assist the residents of other service providers in Bundaberg who did not fare so well in the floods,” she said.

Above: Blue Care’s neighbouring residential aged care facilities Millbank and Riverlea in Bundaberg taken at the peak of the floods on Tuesday afternoon

Staff and residents of Blue Care’s residential aged care facilities in Logan remain on alert but the situation has improved since the early hours of this morning.

Water levels in the Logan River seem to be receding but staff and volunteers have contingency plans in place in case there’s a need to evacuate, Blue Care report on its Facebook page.

Elsewhere, power and communications are beginning to return to normal.

“We still have some residential facilities across Queensland which are being powered by generators, however as water levels reduce and it’s safe to do so we will gradually see main power sources restored,” Ms Batten said.

“Data and network outages have been restored at 55 of the 59 sites where we were experiencing problems and the majority of our community services, which are provided in people’s own homes, are operating as usual.”

Blue Care is regularly posting updates via www.facebook.com/BlueCareAustralia

See previous coverage here Flood challenge for Queensland

Australia ill-prepared to cope with extreme weather related health problems

Meanwhile, the nation’s peak body for doctors says Australia’s ability to cope with health problems resulting from extreme weather events is inadequate because there’s no nationally coordinated approach, a limited understanding of implications and a lack of planning.

In a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) further said a lack of regulations and a failure to consult with health professionals leaves Australia ill-prepared to minimise and react to effects on health arising from extreme weather events.

The AMA’s submission is one of 125 made to the inquiry examining trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events.

The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events means it is vital to address fundamental gaps in current arrangements, said AMA Vice President Professor Geoffrey Dobb.

“The health effects of these events are profound. They not only affect the health of individuals, but place a severe strain on health services,” Prof Dobb said.

“As we have seen recently, the health impacts of extreme weather events can reduce access to essential health services precisely when they are needed the most.”

The AMA is calling for a national coordinated strategy, such as recommened by COAG in 2007, to ensure health services can be rapidly mobilised and effectively targeted during extreme weather events.

“A fundamental gap in policy leadership needs to be overcome if we are to be better prepared for the health impacts of future weather events,” Prof Dobb said.

Gaps highlighted by the AMA include:

  • the lack of a nationally coordinated approach to managing the health effects of extreme weather events and climate change, particularly the absence of consistent framework that links health databases with real-time monitoring and assessment of weather, climate and geographic data;
  • limited understanding of the scope and scale of health implications;
  • little investment in preventive measures and long-term planning;
  • a lack of supporting regulations, legislation, standards and codes; and
  • a failure to sufficiently engage health professionals and the health sector in planning and preparation for extreme weather events.

Submissions for the inquiry closed January 18. The committee will report findings on March 20.

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Tags: ama, australian-medical-association, blue-care, extreme-weather, floods, robyn-batten,

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