CFMEU calls for better training to help doctors combat black lung

The CFMEU is calling for increased training of doctors who assess the health of coal workers following the release of the Monash University review into black lung.

The union believes the re-emergence of the disease was partly caused the number of inadequately trained medical advisors conducting health assessments on mining workers, a report by the Daily Mercury states.

 There have been 11 confirmed cases of black lung diagnosed in Australia since December last year, while an independent review conducted by the Monash University, the Sim Review, indicated the likelihood of an additional 18 cases.

The review also outlined 17 recommendations to fix the respiratory aspects of the coal mine workers health scheme.

Currently, there are 237 nominated medical advisors, including occupational physicians and GP’s, registered to conduct the health assessments, which the union says is nearly 30 times too many.

 Although the Sim review suggested a smaller number of doctors for the assessments, the union said it should be no more than eight, but more highly trained, as is currently no formal system for assessing or training the doctors.

 The review identified that out of 256 lung function test samples, 40 per cent were poorly conducted by the selected doctors, and 41 per cent of the tests were not accurately interpreted.

 It also found that 18 of the 248 samples showed signs of black lung.

 The union said these findings should emphasise the need for proper training of all radiographers and doctors who assess coal worker’s health to international standards.

 They are also calling for radiologists to be trained in the B-reader program, which was implemented in the United States for more consistency in the reading of coal miners’ x-rays.

Additionally, the  CFMEU also wants doctors to be appointed independently from mining companies, and receive funding from a mining industry levy rather than the companies themselves.