Health orgs call for disaster plan

March 2, 2024 BY

Strategy: Grampians Community Health CEO Greg Little is one of eleven executives behind the Alliance of Rural and Regional Community Health which formed last year. Photo: FILE

VICTORIA’S coalition of community health services, operating under the banner of the Alliance of Rural and Regional Community Health, or ARRCH, are calling for a greater disaster response program for the state.

With an emphasis on community recovery and resilience, the group is looking to develop a model to establish permanent workforces for regional areas with a focus on localised disaster support.

Members plan to present their ideas to the State Government.

ARRCH executive and Grampians Community Health CEO Greg Little said the group’s new model will be a better approach than the current reactive method.

“The delay between activation of a local response, and the clarification of roles, expectations and funding, can lead to duplication of effort, additional confusion, and frustration,” he said.

“People and programs with no local knowledge or local connections are parachuted into an area for a short time, and then disappear.

“While this impacts on support services, unfortunately, the people most harmed by the current reactive model are the people who have been impacted by the disaster.”

The combined group consists of 11 statewide services including Grampians Community Health, Ballarat Community Health, and Bendigo Community Health.

Health services under ARRCH have been involved in recovery efforts for more than 130 disaster events over the past decade.

The organisation’s proposed community recovery and resilience program would see case management services for disaster-affected people, offer resilience training, and provide tailored readiness information.

ARRCH-affiliated service Gippsland Lakes Complete Health has an established 15-staff emergency recovery program the funding is set to end in June.

CEO Anne-Maree Kaser said instead of disaster recovery, which is what the program’s focused, efforts should be directed towards resilience building.

“We see the value of doing this work in between disasters and know this is a resource that should be in all ARRCH members across rural and regional Victoria,” Ms Kaser said.

“We spring into action during and after disasters, but we need resources to do the critical work between these incidents to help people to plan and to build community resilience so we’re better prepared.

“You can’t be doing planning work when you’re in the middle of a responding to a disaster.”