TERRIBLE DISEASE: Back in 2016, Percy Verrall was the first Australian diagnosed with Black Lung disease in 30 years. Since then other victims have been diagnosed with many more currently being checked. He welcomed the Senate Inquiry to examine the re-emergence of Black Lung disease in Australia.
TERRIBLE DISEASE: Back in 2016, Percy Verrall was the first Australian diagnosed with Black Lung disease in 30 years. Since then other victims have been diagnosed with many more currently being checked. He welcomed the Senate Inquiry to examine the re-emergence of Black Lung disease in Australia.

New lung disease hotline launched for mine workers

A NEW lung disease hotline will soon become available for Queensland's current and former mine workers in need of assistance.

The Queensland Government announced the hotline plan today, which would act as a confidential one-stop-shop support service mine and quarry workers.

Assistant State Development Minister Julieanne Gilbert said the hotline - 1300 445 715 - would launch on Monday, March 2, giving workers and their families, faster access to the services they need.

"Easy access to accurate workplace health information and free services is essential for concerned and affected workers and their families," Mrs Gilbert said.

"My constituents, both past or current mine workers, tell me it can be a challenge to navigate various public and private sector organisations to find information and services.

"The one stop shop will ­provide them expert advice and support on navigating the system - from pre-health screening to accessing post workers' compensation claim support services and everything in between."

Black lung
Black lung

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said the hotline would make access to advice and services much simpler for workers and their families.

"With one call to the Mine Dust Health Support Service, callers will be able to get information about free mine worker health services, including ­compulsory free chest X-rays and lung function tests, and ready access to advice about workers' compensation," she said.

"I encourage former and current mine workers to pick up a phone and dial 1300 445 715."

Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said mine dust lung disease impacted all aspects of a worker's life and could cause significant personal and financial distress.

"That's why the Government introduced laws in 2017 that deliver stronger workers' compensation protections for Queenslanders suffering from black lung or other forms of dust lung disease," he said.

"For those who have developed these insidious diseases through their work, support is available.

"The Palaszczuk Government has ensured simpler, faster workers comp claims and extra lump sum payments for people with black lung or silicosis."

The hotline is also open to doctors seeking information about the screening and diagnosis process.

Former Coal Miner Ian Hiscock, when he was working at the Carborough Downs coal mine.
Former Coal Miner Ian Hiscock, when he was working at the Carborough Downs coal mine.

WorkCover Queensland CEO Bruce Watson said that the Mine Dust Health Support service was a positive step forward in tackling the impact these diseases can have on workers and their families.

 

"This new service provides an enhanced, seamless service to those impacted by mine dust disease," Mr Watson said.

It is a collaboration between the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, WorkCover and the Office of Industrial Relations.

A BMA spokesperson welcomed the Queensland Government's announcement of a Mine Dust Health Support service with a hotline to improve access to health and service information to provide care and support for all current and former workers in the industry.

"Early connection to support is key in ensuring people receive the help they need," the spokesperson said. 

"The health and safety of our people is integral to everything we do, and the introduction of a one stop shop for expert advice and support for will make it easier to navigate the systems available to those with respiratory health concerns."

Specimen of lung with Progressive Massive Fibrosis
Specimen of lung with Progressive Massive Fibrosis

Dr Lynham said the one stop shop was just another measure in the suite of sweeping reforms the Palaszczuk Government had made to better protect mine workers.

Thanks to the Queensland Government's reforms:

• Queensland coal workers now receive free respiratory health checks when they start in the industry, when they leave, and at least every five years while they are working.

• Retired or former coal, mineral mine and quarry workers have access to the same free checks.

• All medical professionals who provide compulsory mine worker health checks and take and read chest X-rays must have special training.

• Workers' free X-rays are taken in specially registered x-ray imaging clinics.

Additionally, the Queensland Government has:

- Increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.

- Supported statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety.

- Allocated $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of our mine workers.

- Brought legislation before parliament to establish an independent resources health and safety authority.