A Katherine-based Aboriginal healthcare provider has raised the alarm about the compounding impacts of flooding this wet season amid a potential COVID-19 outbreak in remote parts of the NT.
The Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service is in the process of planning for a potential outbreak of the virus among Aboriginal communities in the Big Rivers region.
Primary Health Care Operations Manager for Wurli, Antony King, said one of scenarios the organisation is planning for is flooding caused by what is predicted to be a significant wet season, further restricting remote Territorians from health services.
"Predicting a very big wet with the potential for flooding [so] the access to health services is going to be limited even more," Mr King said.
"That's sort of in planning at the moment."
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He said Wurli was particularly concerned about the prospect of the Katherine Hospital flooding amid an outbreak.
"If Katherine Hospital floods, what's our scenario then?"
The Katherine hospital had to be evacuated during the devastating floods of 1998, with work since being done to raise buildings and vital equipment.
However, long-term plans to move the hospital from the flood zone have not progressed.
According to Bureau of Meteorology Climatologist Greg Browning, "climate drivers around Australia are favourable for above-average rainfall across the NT this wet season," with rain likely to start earlier in the season.
The Bureau is also predicting "average to slightly above average" numbers of tropical cyclones this cyclone season.
An NT Health spokesperson said the department was currently reviewing its contingency plans for the upcoming wet season.
"As part of the Big Rivers Region preparedness for the upcoming disaster season, NT Health is reviewing all relevant plans in consultation with all appropriate stakeholders including health, emergency and community organisations," the spokesperson said.
"NT Health has robust COVID-19 contingency plans in the event of an outbreak in the Northern Territory including for our urban centres and remote communities.
"All of our hospitals have COVID-19 management plans which includes reconfiguring parts of the hospital as required to surge up bed capacity. Resources and staffing would be reconfigured in alignment with the plans and the specific situation at hand."
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