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Floods will swamp health system: AMA

Peak in health pressures is still weeks away, predicts medical profession.

Queensland's flood crisis will severely strain the state's health system for months, the Australian Medical Association has warned.

AMA Queensland President Dr Gino Pecoraro says health workers are already dealing with an increase in injuries and illness from the floods.

But he says the peak in health pressures is still weeks away, with the crisis still unfolding.

The most common injuries so far include cuts, sprains, dislocations, concussions and neck and back injuries resulting from people caught in flood waters, slipping or trying to clean up the mess the dirty tide has left behind.

"We do however anticipate patients with infections to swell as food, water and sanitation continue to be compromised," Pecoraro said.

"Infections will vary from ingestion varieties including gastroenteritis and parasitic infestations causing vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pains to systemic infections."

Wounds that become infected from contaminated flood waters are also a concern, along with respiratory infections from inhalation of contaminated water.

Pecoraro says doctors are also concerned for patients who've lost or are unable to access medications, or continue treatment regimes.

"There are numerous cases of older Queenslanders not leaving homes or people cut off from medical support," he said.

"Those people may be now in danger from sickness born from contaminated water, poor hygiene and nutrition but we are also very concerned some will lose control of illnesses because they can't get, (have) lost or just run out of essential medication."

He says people dependent on carers, nursing services and meal providers are also at risk, with those services severely disrupted in flood-hit areas.

“In some cases (they've) stopped altogether. We are gravely concerned for those people as these services provide not only medical but primary care," Pecoraro said.

He's also warned of the psychological fallout from the floods, with so many people having lost so much.

"We predict a steady stream of people suffering from adjustment disorders, severe anxiety disorders and depression over the coming weeks and months."

"This catastrophic event will impact our health system for many months and potentially years to come."

Queensland Health's chief health officer Jeannette Young said only a limited number of small facilities had been forced to suspend services.

But alternative arrangements were in place to ensure healthcare services in those areas continued.
"For example, in Emerald, which was split due to floodwaters, Queensland Health established a temporary facility to ensure residents in both parts of the town were able to access medical treatment," Young said in a statement.

"Queensland Health has comprehensive public health and mental health plans in place to ensure the community is able to access advice and information in relation to the vast range of health issues associated with flooding."

She said Queensland Health was working closely with local authorities to ensure community needs were met, and public health issues were addressed.

"Queensland Health is also working to ensure supplies for medications and medical equipment are easily available in flood-affected areas," Young said.


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