Australian health professionals have failed twice to identify black lung disease in a central Queensland miner’s X-rays as the latest case is confirmed, the mining union says.
A 54-year-old man who worked underground for 36 years at the Carborough Downs mine in the Bowen Basin, who does not want to be named publicly, has been confirmed as the 15th worker to have the disease after it re-emerged in May 2015.
The potentially life-threatening disease – also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis – was thought to have been eliminated in Australia.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) said nominated Australian medical assessors and radiologists had cleared the worker twice before a US expert confirmed he had the disease.
CFMEU mining division president Steve Smyth said it was “just unacceptable”.
“It is unbelievable that this disease was missed twice by Australian health professionals in less than a year,” Mr Smyth said.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that this worker was expose to dust for 16 months extra because people here in Australia, in the medical profession, couldn’t pick up the fact had simple pneumoconiosis.”
He said workers had lost faith in the system.
“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,” he said.
“We need independent doctors appointed by the government, paid for by industry, no links to the coal companies, and the same for the radiologists – because until they do that, no worker is going to trust this system.
“How can you when you just keep having these cases after cases, week after week and no one’s being held to account.”
Last month, the Queensland government announced it would set up a parliamentary review into the re-emergence of black lung disease in the state.