Minister’s Statement

I rise to inform the house of how the Andrews Labor government is supporting the health and wellbeing of Victorians impacted by our recent bushfires. There is no greater priority to our government than supporting our communities through the bushfire season and on the long road to recovery. To ensure bushfire-affected patients could access their medication, our government issued an emergency order allowing pharmacies to dispense medicines to people without a prescription until midnight on 1 April 2020.

To support our health services our government has also engaged the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria to provide a point of contact for clinicians and other healthcare workers offering their services to bushfire-affected communities, and I am pleased that to date nearly 600 expressions of interest to support our health services and local GP practices have been registered. I take this opportunity to thank all those volunteers who have provided that additional support.

In addition, my department is continuing to support bushfire-affected communities and has distributed more than half a million protective P2 masks as well as more than 10 000 personal protective equipment kits to residents returning home. In addition, my department has made over 13 000 relief payments, exceeding $14 million.

Over the past few weeks I have had the great pleasure to visit a number of health services in both East Gippsland and north-east Victoria to see for myself the impact of the bushfires on our health services and their local communities, and what I heard was nothing less than heroic. There were enormous efforts to evacuate safely residential aged-care residents to safe locations. During my visit I met with Rachelle Pellow, acting Gippsland regional director of paramedics in Bairnsdale, who told me about paramedics risking their lives by driving into active fire zones to rescue a patient. In Corryong, Anthony Carlyon, executive director, informed me of paramedics leaving their own burning properties to provide emergency care to patients in their community and across the border into New South Wales. In Walwa, CEO Sandi Grieve and her team turned their bush nursing centre into a makeshift relief centre, providing medical support, meals and comfort to locals and emergency services workers.

As Victorians we should be incredibly proud of our health and ambulance services. Their unwavering commitment to providing quality care to their local community is unparalleled, and on behalf of our government I offer our sincerest thanks.