Crisis affected most Australians

Bushfires closing in on the Malua Bay area turned the sky red. Photo: Mark Naunton/Supplied.

Politicians have thanked pharmacy for the sector’s tireless work during the recent bushfires… while new research looks at how many people were affected

A NSW South Coast pharmacist who kept his pharmacy open despite the loss of his house is one of the pharmacists hailed as a hero by politicians this month.

Mehreen Faruqi, of the Greens, spoke about the impact of the bushfires on communities and families, and shared a number of stories in Parliament about the actions of Australians who did their best to help others during the crisis.

One was Malua Bay pharmacist Raj Gupta, who “having lost his own home, kept his pharmacy open without power or mobile service so he could continue to provide the medical care his community needed”.

Mr Gupta was featured by SBS for his efforts to help people retain access their medicines, and the story gained fame when it was shared via Instagram by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

He has since told SBS that he welcomes the NSW Government’s changes to emergency provisions in the state, which will remain in place until April.

Also in Federal Parliament, Labor’s Patrick Gorman spoke of the compassion of small businesses and other organisations which dug deep to help out.

“In my electorate of Perth, we saw the compassion of Australians for our brothers and sisters in the vast expanse that we refer to as ‘the eastern states’: kids running bake sales, completely unapologetic for their aggressive pricing strategies; small businesses donating their daily profits—Maylands Amcal Pharmacy and Picabar, a beloved bar in the heart of Perth, just to name two,” he said.

In Victoria, Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos paid tribute to the Pharmacy Guild.

After thanking firefighters and the Australian Defence Force, and expressing condolences to those who lost loved ones and property, Ms Mikakos said that “I want to take this opportunity to thank the Pharmacy Guild of Australia for ensuring pharmacists in bushfire-affected areas had adequate medical supplies during the crisis”.

“I also want to commend them for providing financial relief to bushfire-affected patients who did not have the funds available to pay for their prescriptions,” she told state Parliament.

“To support patients during the immediate crisis, our government made a public health emergency order that is applicable until midnight, 1 April 2020.

“It enables pharmacies to dispense prescription-only medicines to people affected by the bushfires if they do not have a prescription.

“Of course we did that understanding the reality that being displaced people were not able to obtain all their relevant paperwork and take that with them, and of course paperwork that is vital to their continued health and wellbeing include things like prescriptions.”

Meanwhile, a new poll from The Australian National University found that more than three quarters of Australian adults report that they were affected by the nation’s recent unprecedented bushfires.

Lead researcher Professor Nicolas Biddle said the poll asked a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 Australians about their experiences of and exposure to the recent extensive bushfires across the nation. The poll is the largest and most representative study on public perceptions about the bushfires to date.

“Nearly every Australian has been touched by these fires and many of us will be living with the effects for years and years to come,” he said.

Professor Biddle said he suspected the impact would be widespread, but even he was “surprised at just how far-reaching they are”.

“We found that about three million people – more than 14 per cent of adult Australians – reported that they were directly exposed to this year’s bushfires.

“This widespread, direct exposure includes property damage, property being threatened and being advised to evacuate.

Indirect exposure was even more widespread. Analysis of the data showed that more than three quarters of Australian adults – more than 15 million Australians – reported some form of indirect exposure.

“This includes having a friend or family member that had property damage; having a friend or family that had property threatened; having their travel or holiday plans affected; being exposed to the physical effects of smoke; or feeling anxious or worried.

“These fires have been unprecedented in scale and global in impact. And now our poll shows just how far and wide and how many Australians have felt the negative and long-lasting effects of this disaster – regardless of their economic, social or cultural background.”

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