Lifesaving ‘Dust Bus’ coming to a regional centre near you
Former and retired mineworkers are urged to register for lung screening onboard the purpose-built Heart 5 ‘dust bus’.
In February this year, the first-of-its-kind HEART 5 mobile medical imaging clinic was launched in collaboration with Resources Health and Safety Queensland (RHSQ) to deliver a free lung screening program to former and retired mine and quarry workers.
The mobile clinic was campaigned for by our union and was a recommendation of the Black Lung White Lies Parliamentary Inquiry to address the crisis of undiagnosed mine lung dust disease in the state.
The Queensland Dust Disease Support Group – a volunteer organisation led by retired miners – proudly recruited the first 200 retirees to be tested by the new mobile custom-made health unit.
Since then, the program has screened almost 450 former and retired workers for mine dust lung diseases such as black lung and silicosis.
Retired mineworker and unionist Archie Tudehope was instrumental in getting the program up and running as well as organising the support group.
“We know that mineworkers sometimes don’t receive their exit medical,” he said.
“We initially got a group of people together to get them tested through RHSQ but it was a bit chaotic organising appointments, particularly when we were dealing with 80-year-old retirees who might need to travel from Emerald to Rockhampton, which is about a six hour round trip.
“Sometimes we would have instances where retirees had to travel and were put up in a motel on the second or third floor they couldn’t even walk up.
“We realised that system wasn’t working, so that’s how the truck was born, so it could travel to retired mineworkers and those wouldn’t get tested otherwise did get tested.
“This was also important for follow ups because people felt lost, and they needed some guidance. A lot of the people affected are retirees and asking them to pick up a laptop or join a zoom call to get more information just wouldn’t be realistic for them.
“This program is also collecting very valuable information and giving us statistics about this disease.”
The end-to-end service includes a basic screening of breathing test, x-ray and examination, and provides diagnostic workups of lung function tests, high resolution CTs, respiratory specialist consults and expert reviews of complex cases.
For these former and retired workers who are often disadvantaged by distance and mobility, providing a one-stop-shop through HEART 5 means that they can access healthcare right there on their doorstep.