NSW bushfires information

23 January 2020

In response to the bushfire emergency, the Australian Government has announced a comprehensive bushfire recovery package. As part of this package it is providing $76 million for immediate, short term and medium term mental health support for individuals, families and communities, including emergency services personnel, impacted by the ongoing bushfire emergency. 

Mental health support

Heat issues

Heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion, which can lead to the life threatening condition, heatstroke. Heatstroke is fatal in up to 80 per cent of cases.

Simple precautions can reduce the risk of heat-related illness:

  • Avoid the heat of the day by staying indoors and keeping cool by using air-conditioning, fans and drawing blinds and curtains closed.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Check on vulnerable neighbours, friends and family by telephone or in person if it is safe for them to do so.
  • Plan ahead for hot days.

More information on being aware of the impact of heat on your health can be found on the NSW Health website.

Respiratory issues

Bushfire smoke can affect anyone but particularly people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions, including asthma. It is important to ensure those with asthma have asthma management plans, medication on hand and that they are activating plans based on symptoms and exposure. Risks from contaminated water and spoiled food will also have a greater impact on the elderly, young children and pregnant women.

Hazardous air quality can lead to:

  • Serious aggravation of health effects in people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions.
  • Serious increase in respiratory and other effects in everyone else and many people might have symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.

Please visit the NSW Health website for information on air quality during bushfires. It provides information on air quality across the state, how you can protect yourself from bushfire smoke, and lists support services available to you. 

You can also find helpful information on our website regarding useful pathways for the management of asthma in your patients.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers have released a statement on the use of masks for those exposed to bushfire smoke. Click here to view the statement.

Disaster support and preparedness

  • A new burn injuries pathway is now on South Eastern Sydney HealthPathways. The SESLHD Disaster Management Unit also recommends tht all local GPs are familiar with our local disaster management pathways by searching "disaster management" on the website. To access these pathways please click here and use the following login details:
    Username: sesydney
    Password: healthcare
  • The NSW Government Community Support Hub is where you can find information regarding support services, loans and grants, evacuation centres, financial assistance and more.
  • The RACGP provides information to GPs impacted by bushfires and how they can assist their patients.
  • If you are a GP you can extress an interest to support rural GPs as a locum doctor. Visit the NSW Rural Doctors Network website for more information on this.
  • SESLHD Disaster Management Unit has asked that GPs working in the Sutherland Shire obtain names, contact details and availability over the next month of GPs who would be willing to provide support at evacuation centres should the need arise. This would involve providing visiting services to support people who may have left their medications at home or who have run out of prescription medication. If you are willing to assist, or would like more information, please email Elizabeth Ryan at the SESLHD Disaster Management Unit on elizabeth.ryan3@health.nsw.gov.au with your name, contact details and availability.
  • The Disaster Management Unit has also requested that practices maintain a list of at risk patients that may need to be moved early, or may require assistance to be moved to evacuation centres. These would include people using home oxygen, people on home dialysis and frail elderly people living alone and socially isolated. Ideally this list would be sorted by suburb given that emergencies are likely to be localised. Please encourage your at risk patients to think about family whom they could contact for assistance in an emergency and the benefits of evacuating early. In the event of an emergency, practices in affected areas would be contacted to provide a copy of their priority list. For more information, please contact Liz Ryan Tel (no voicemail) 02 9540 8532 | Fax 02 9540 8757 | Mob 0427 407 036.