Local GP Ahleigh Broomfield says the community wants to see clear leadership and decisive action on climate change.
Local GP Ahleigh Broomfield says the community wants to see clear leadership and decisive action on climate change. Jess Watters

Climate change a ‘key public health issue’ says local GP

IT is a scary time for the medical profession says local GP Ashlea Broomfield but it's also the right time to start talking seriously about climate change.

Based at the Toormina Medical Centre she is also the Co-Vice Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

"It's always difficult to make difficult decisions, but what I see from looking around the community is we're having local protests calling for action on climate change; the RACGP is creating clear positions on climate change; and other parties are talking about the impact of climate change and we need to act."

The RACGP Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health from June 2019 recognises climate change as a: 'key public health issue'.

"People want to see clear leadership and clear decisive action. I don't believe we've been seeing that to the extent we should be."

Dr Broomfield is speaking in the context of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack's comments claiming it's not the time to discuss the matter.

The Nationals leader was widely criticised on Monday after he dismissed links between climate change and the unprecedented bushfires in Queensland and NSW, using a radio interview to slam "woke capital city greenies".

"We've had fires in Australia since time began. What people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance," Mr McCormack said.

"They don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they're trying to save their homes."

The comments came a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to discuss any link between climate, drought and the unfolding disaster.

Dr Broomfield says climate change is presenting a whole new set of challenges for doctors with the long term impacts yet to play out.

"It's part of a new standard for doctors, it's considered that we need to know what to do in the event of an emergency environmental disaster," Dr Broomfield said.

"That's the scary part I think - when I went through GP training and medical student training the environment was a concern but being equipped to respond to environmental disasters wasn't a part of what we had to train specifically to deal with."

Dr Broomfield has volunteered to be on standby at evacuation centres if the fire threat intensifies but thankfully has not been required.

"I understand when politicians says 'now is not the time' but I also think: when are we going to have the conversation and make a real change and look at this specifically," Dr Broomfield said.

"We know that climate change is happening - it's no longer a dispute - and we need to look at prevention. As a GP it's my job is to deal with acute issues but also prevent them from having to come back in again. So if someone comes in with an asthma attack I treat that but also look at what can be put in place to prevent that from happening again."

She is also concerned about the long term psychological impacts of climate change and associated natural disasters.

"It's the stress and anxiety we don't always think about, but when a community is placed on high alert for widespread catastrophic fires, the levels of stress and anxiety are significant and the widespread impact on people is yet to be seen.

"It's November - we're not even into summer yet - we've got whole summer yet to go, and it's yet to be seen how the community will respond."

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