The 2019-20 Australian bushfires have been devastating, with at least 33 recorded deaths nationally. Hundreds of structures have been destroyed and millions of animals and livestock have perished. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight, with experts warning the fires could continue for months.
Thousands of Australians have been evacuated from their homes and displaced due to the severity of the fires, with many experiencing unforgettable death, destruction and loss.
Following our announcement of the government's $30 million investment into new telehealth mental health item numbers, Coviu received an unprecedented and heartfelt response from Coviu-using clinicians. They expressed their desire to help and asked how Coviu could help facilitate this process.
We swiftly developed Coviu's Bushfire Relief Service, a united response that helps link bushfire victims with healthcare providers who are offering free or bulk-billed services. Coviu will provide this service for free.
Coviu's Bushfire Relief Service will be held on our patient-facing directory, Online Doctors Directory of Australia. So far, roughly 20 clinicians have agreed to provide free or no-gap services to bushfire victims. The majority of these bushfire relief providers specialise in mental health, given both the government and local GPs have identified mental health as a serious and long term issue to stem from this crisis.
In addition, the Australian government has released new bushfire MBS item numbers. These allow psychologists and GPs, social workers, medical practitioners and occupational therapists with appropriate mental health training, to offer ten reimbursed mental health sessions to bushfire affected individuals. Patients do not need a referral, and there are no geographical requirements for claiming these items other than a requirement to have been affected by the bushfires.
The majority of Australians who were affected by bushfires are located in rural and remote locations. In addition, local health services are overwhelmed with the number of patients seeking help and they simply do not have the resources or qualifications to care for these patients.
Telehealth video consultations are a great way to overcome geographical barriers and offer patients increased access to Australian healthcare providers. Patients also enjoy the convenience and privacy of seeing their provider online, from the comfort of their own home, or wherever they are currently taking shelter.
Patients simply enter the website, click the 'Bushfire Relief Service' button and choose from the list of providers. They can book an appointment instantly using the clinician's online booking button, and are then sent a link to click when it's time for their session. The patient waits in the private, browser based online room until the clinician enters the video call.