BLACK LUNG INQUIRY: Dr Ewen McPhee providing evidence at a hearing in Emerald on Thursday afternoon.
BLACK LUNG INQUIRY: Dr Ewen McPhee providing evidence at a hearing in Emerald on Thursday afternoon. Jessica Dorey

Ill-equipped to diagnose

The black lung inquiry committee have heard nominated medical advisors are ill equipped to deal with the effective diagnoses of the disease. Local Emerald practitioner Doctor Ewen McPhee has been a nominated medical advisor for many mine contracting companies and many mine companies within the Central Highlands. He gave evidence at an Emerald hearing to provide information from the physicians perspective.

Doctor Ewen McPhee presented the committee with a number of reasons why nominated medical advisors are ill equipped to diagnose Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis.

"We are often asked to see and assess people in a single point in time,” he said.

"At its early stage it is a very subtle disease to diagnose. I think we are ill equipped in our current capacity to effectively be part of a health system to identify CWP.”

In his opening statement Dr McPhee said that the predominant role of the Coal Board Medical is one of assessing fitness of a person to go to work not to diagnose CWP.

"Our role is centred around looking at their physical capabilities,” he said.

The original purpose of these coal worker's medicals paired with the number of "unnecessary” medicals for other industries and the inconsistent nature of the coal industry, it was claimed, is preventing doctors from focusing on the diagnosis of CWP.

"I believe what we should be doing is identifying those people with the greatest need of surveillance and really qualifying quite clearing what a risk to dust exposure should be and focusing our efforts on that,” he said.

"Often I will only see coal miners once. There's no consistency in follow ups and certainly when I see a miner, there's no history and I have no visibility of previous x-rays. I see some significant challenges and I wish to be more affective in my role.”


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