Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times
Former coal miner Percy Verrall has been diagnosed with 'Black Lung' after decades working underground. Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times Rob Williams

Inquiry a relief for black lung sufferer

MACKAY: THE FACE of black lung in Queensland has had his wish granted - the Senate has announced a public inquiry into the re-emergence of the disease.

Former Ipswich underground coal miner Percy Verrall, whose diagnosis was made public last year, spoke at his home in Ipswich yesterday following the announcement.

The 72-year-old man broke down in tears as he spoke about his health.

"It's very hard for me to talk about. I can't do anything with my grandkids; they come over here and we just sit in the lounge room talking," he said.

"I just can't do anything at all. I can walk around this house then I've got to sit back down."

Senator Deborah O'Neill, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Health, proposed the committee investigate the re-emergence of black lung yesterday.

Hearings will be held in Mackay and Brisbane.

"There are a number of worrying factors to this outbreak... the committee will examine issues around the detection of the illness and treatment for sufferers," she said in a statement. Senator O'Neill said the inquiry would investigate whether reduced Federal hospital and health funding was to blame.

"The committee will also consider whether the removal of Health Workforce Australia has reduced capacity for workforce skills planning in relevant areas of the medical profession," she said.

The inquiry is exactly what mining union CFMEU had been campaigning for since six confirmed cases of black lung among coal miners recently emerged.

The disease was thought to have been eradicated in Australia decades ago.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said: "We think it's a great move forward to hopefully get to the bottom of some unanswered questions around the health screening process, the dust levels, those kinds of things," he said.

Mr Smyth said he would ask the other coal miners diagnosed with black lung to make submissions at the inquiry.

Public hearings are scheduled for Brisbane on May 7 and Mackay on May 8.