General practitioners' roles in disaster health management: perspectives of disaster managers

Burns, Penelope L., FitzGerald, Gerard J., Hu, Wendy C., Aitken, Peter, and Douglas, Kirsty A. (2021) General practitioners' roles in disaster health management: perspectives of disaster managers. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 37 (1). pp. 124-131.

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Abstract

Introduction:

General Practitioners (GPs) are inevitably involved when disaster strikes their communities. Evidence of health care needs in disasters increasingly suggests benefits from greater involvement of GPs, and recent research has clarified key roles. Despite this, GPs continue to be disconnected from disaster health management (DHM) in most countries.

Study Objective:

The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of disaster management professionals in two countries, across a range of all-hazard disasters, regarding the roles and contributions of GPs to DHM, and to identify barriers to, and benefits of, more active engagement of GPs in disaster health care systems.

Methods:

A qualitative research methodology using semi-structured interviews was conducted with a purposive sample of Disaster Managers (DMs) to explore their perspectives arising from experiences and observations of GPs during disasters from 2009 through 2016 in Australia or New Zealand. These involved all-hazard disasters including natural, man-made, and pandemic disasters. Responses were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results:

These findings document support from DM participants for greater integration of GPs into DHM with New Zealand DMs reporting GPs as already a valuable integrated contributor. In contrast, Australian DMs reported barriers to inclusion that needed to be addressed before sustained integration could occur. The two most strongly expressed barriers were universally expressed by Australian DMs: (1) limited understanding of the work GPs undertake, restricting DMs' ability to facilitate GP integration; and (2) DMs' difficulty engaging with GPs as a single group. Other considerations included GPs' limited DHM knowledge, limited preparedness, and their heightened vulnerability. Strategies identified to facilitate greater integration of GPs into DHM where it is lacking, such as Australia, included enhanced communication, awareness, and understanding between GPs and DMs.

Conclusion:

Experience from New Zealand shows systematic, sustained integration of GPs into DHM systems is achievable and valuable. Findings suggest key factors are collaboration between DMs and GPs at local, state, and national levels of DHM in planning and preparedness for the next disaster. A resilient health care system that maximizes capacity of all available local health resources in disasters and sustains them into the recovery should include General Practice.

Item ID: 72100
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1945-1938
Keywords: delivery of health care, disaster planning, disasters, family physicians, general practitioners
Copyright Information: © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine.
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 08:19
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420304 General practice @ 60%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420399 Health services and systems not elsewhere classified @ 20%
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320207 Emergency medicine @ 20%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200406 Health protection and disaster response @ 100%
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