A retired Queensland miner has told a black lung forum that he was disappointed that a mining company-appointed doctors — who told him he had bronchitis — did not know how to read chest X-rays correctly despite coal workers pneumoconiosis being an occupational disease known to affect mine workers.
Terry Blanch was an underground coal miner who had been in the industry for 30 years, but was diagnosed with silicosis at the beginning of 2017.
Terry told the Queensland Rockhampton Black Lung forum “Nobody knew what they were looking for because the medical practitioners, the doctors that were employed by the companies couldn’t read the chest X-rays properly,” he said.
“I was never given that opportunity by these [company] appointed doctors to say, ‘Terry there’s an issue with your lungs, you’ve got to get out of the industry now’ — and now I’m paying for it.
“I’ve been told what I’ve got to look forward to, it just makes you so angry.
“I’m angry because I was never given the opportunity to get out while I could, I could’ve many years ago, but no, I was still working underground.
“All these years you were having coal board medicals, having chest X-rays, but they weren’t being read properly.”
Terry said it took him two-and-half-years, three specialists and a number of doctors to be officially diagnosed with the disease. He said that it all became apparent when the X-rays were sent to international expert Dr Robert Cohen for review.
“All of a sudden other doctors have picked up these X-rays that weren’t being ready properly,” he said.
“They sent [thousands] of them to America and a lot of them have come back with people suffering from coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) and silicosis.
“The whole system is wrong, it’s just wrong.” he said.
Mine Dust Diseases Victim Group advocate Jim Pearce said 105 current and retired Queensland coal industry workers had been diagnosed with industrial lung disease.
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“We are aware that there are at least 200 more workers going through the testing and diagnosis process,” he said.
“It’s an area where the mining company isn’t being responsible for what’s happened to the mine worker.”
The Mine Dust Disease Victims Group has requested coal mining companies pay one cent per tonne, per week, into a fund to assist victims of the disease
But Jim Pearce told the ABC Central Queensland that “no coal mining companies had shown interest in supporting the fund so far.”
“We really need to keep pursuing this issue of the one cent, per tonne, per week from the coal companies,” he said.
“If we don’t we’re just going to have a lot of families left out there, the way I see it basically thrown on the scrap heap where no one cares.”
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the health and safety of workers was a priority.
“We are vigilant to ensure we have the highest standards,” he said.
“The QRC is fully committed to working cooperatively and constructively with the State Government, unions and medical professionals to address matters relating to Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis and other mine dust lung diseases.
“Because of this collaborative approach, Queensland coal mine workers now have access to world-class lung function tests.”
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