Thunderstorm Asthma: New Systems, Training And Resources To Better Prepare And Respond

27 April 2017

The Andrews Labor Government will develop a Victorian-first real-time monitoring system to track emergency demand and ensure a faster response to large-scale emergencies like thunderstorm asthma events.

The real-time monitoring system will be funded in the Victorian Budget 2017/18, as part of a $15.56 million package to make sure we are better able to predict and respond to similar large-scale events.

The announcement comes as Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today released the final report from the Inspector-General for Emergency Management, into the thunderstorm asthma event of 21 and 22 November 2016.

The report found there was no evidence to suggest that this storm would result in a health emergency of such unprecedented scale and consequences, and that Victoria had no way of predicting the likely extent, or duration of the event.

It confirms that never before had hospitals, ambulance services and emergency call takers experienced such rapid-onset demand in such a condensed time period, and across such a large geographical area. It found Ambulance Victoria received the biggest number of requests for assistance within the shortest period, in Victoria’s history.

In his findings, the Inspector-General acknowledges that all those involved in responding to the event did a remarkable job in dealing with the unexpected and unprecedented demand.

The Labor Government has accepted in-principle all recommendations in the report, with work already underway to implement them.

This work builds on the significant steps already taken to strengthen our ability to better understand, predict and respond to events like this in the future. This includes a complete overhaul of the State Health Emergency Response Plan (SHERP).

It will be supported by $15.56 million in funding, which includes:

  • Emergency management training for hospitals and health workers
  • More research to improve our understanding and treatment of thunderstorm asthma
  • Education and engagement campaigns to assist communities to prepare for and respond to epidemic thunderstorm asthma
  • Increased monitoring and interpretation of pollen data
  • Research to inform forecasting, modelling and response protocols
  • Improved real-time monitoring of data sources, including emergency department demand

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy

“We’re putting in place the right systems and training, so that if thunderstorm asthma or another extreme weather event happens, we’re as ready as we possibly can be.”

“I want to assure the families affected by this event that we have made every effort to learn from this tragedy and to do whatever we can to better respond in the future.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino

"We commend all the hard work put in by emergency service workers in extremely difficult circumstances during the thunderstorm asthma events.”

“We are determined to strengthen our system so that they have the support they need to respond as best they can."

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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