Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham, Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert and CFMEU district vice president Steve Pierce.
Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham, Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert and CFMEU district vice president Steve Pierce. Melanie Whiting

$1.2M health boost for region's coal workers

AS PERCY Verrall wheezed down the phone, the debilitating impact coal workers' pneumoconiosis had on his daily life was made clear.

The retired miner is one of 105 Queensland coal workers who have been diagnosed with lung dust diseases, of which 35 were confirmed with black lung.

While it is too late for Mr Verrall to benefit, he welcomed news the Queensland Government had approved a new mobile health screening van for coal mine workers.

It comes more than two years after being recommended by the Parliamentary Select Committee into coal workers' pneumoconiosis (black lung) and was made possible after a $1.2 million State Budget boost.

MR VERRALL, who was diagnosed with black lung in 2011, said he believed there were many more coal workers with the disease who refused to get tested.

"Many years ago when I first went to the mines, we used to go to Brisbane twice a year for x-rays, but they stopped it ... I don't know why," he said.

"To me, it's a good idea and I think a lot of the blokes now would prefer to have it.

"I've heard there's a lot more that have (black lung) that won't get tested."

Black Lung Victims Support Group chair Jim Pearce said the mobile service was a "giant step forward" in giving workers access to screenings in their own towns.

"So many workers are scared to go to the doctor to ask for a screening that may turn out to be positive," Mr Pearce said.

"This way they can keep the process a little bit more private and it puts them in a position where they get specialist attention.

"I think there's still more work to be done, but on behalf of mine workers I thank the government for taking the action they have and encourage them to continue working with the miners."

Speaking in Mackay yesterday, Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the van would be equipped with radiographic and respiratory equipment, but could not confirm when it would be on the ground.

He said the van, which would offer five-yearly health reviews and respiratory health checks at mine sites, would be delivered "as soon as we possibly can".

The State Government is expected to work with stakeholders to determine the best option in partnering with local providers to deliver the service.

The mobile screening service has the backing of the CFMMEU, with its district vice president Steve Pierce saying it would make a positive impact.