Crisis escalating as 15th Black Lung case missed

Published: 6 Sep 2016

The 15th miner to be officially confirmed with Black Lung disease has emerged, despite originally being cleared on two separate occasions by nominated medical assessors and radiologists.

The miner, who does not want to be named publicly, has worked in underground longwall mines for 36 years - most recently in the Carborough Downs mine in Central Queensland, where four other cases of Black Lung disease have been identified.

Despite the coalmine worker being given a clear bill of health by medical professionals following an x-ray in May 2015, the disease was picked up months later when the mine commenced a full review of all existing medical records with internationally recognised Black Lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen, from the US.

Dr Cohen identified Black Lung disease in the miner and called for further tests to be done. However, Queensland medical professionals cleared the following CT scan conducted in March 2016.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President, Stephen Smyth said that the system is still in crisis and failing to identify Black Lung disease despite a supposed focus on the illness.

“It is unbelievable that this disease was missed twice by Australian health professionals in less than a year,” Mr Smyth said.

“Even when Black Lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen told them it was there they still couldn’t identify it.  That’s a nominated medical assessor, and a radiologist who have missed this disease and let a worker go back into dangerous and dusty conditions underground.

“This failure shows that the Black Lung crisis is escalating and why coalmine workers have lost all confidence in the health and regulatory systems that are supposed to be there to keep them safe.”

Mr Smyth said while the union was aware of more cases of Black Lung disease, especially from coalmine workers not wanting to put their jobs and livelihoods at risk by coming forward, failures in the system were also deflating confirmed cases.

“This coalmine worker had two tests done in 12-months, and both were cleared by Australian health professionals.  He also would have had tests done when he started working in Queensland mines, and x-rays done every five years since then.  Yet, he has no idea how long he has been living with Black Lung,” Mr Smyth said.

“When the system is still failing to identify Black Lung disease despite multiple checks then we still just don’t know how many cases there could be or how many workers are living with the disease but are still going to work each day.”

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