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Free lung tests come to Mackay and Proserpine

19 October 2023

Graham Bowcock, 74, is living proof that getting a lung checkup can change your life for the better.

In 2020 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and silicosis after spending 37 years working in mineral mines in North West Queensland.

Graham was told by his treating specialist that he'd have no more than 6 months to live unless he had emergency surgery.

“You realise you’re not totally bulletproof," said Graham.

Following Graham’s initial diagnosis and treatment, he contacted Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ) after hearing about their free lung health check program.

The program helped Graham confirm his diagnosis as a mine dust lung disease and connect him with the Mine Dust Health Support Service to access compensation and support.

The Director of RSHQ’s Health Surveillance Unit Evan Pengelly said the program allows former and retired mine and quarry workers to access medical testing for free.

“In many cases RSHQ can cover the travel expenses too,” Mr Pengelly said.

Since Graham’s initial diagnosis in 2020, access to this free program has expanded through a mobile health unit, called ‘HEART5’.

HEART5 is fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment to provide the required screening examinations, including a lung function test and chest X-ray, and any tests needed to investigate possible abnormalities, such as high-resolution CT scans.

Since its launch in February 2022, free checks on board HEART 5 have detected dozens of cases of mine dust lung disease diagnosed in former mine and quarry workers across regional and remote Queensland.

“I really urge all former and retired mine and quarry workers to have their free lung check," said Mr Pengelly.

“Lung disease can sometimes take 10 years or more to develop after a worker finishes in the industry.

“If you are diagnosed early that means you can access treatment as soon as possible, potentially slow the progression of disease, and apply for workers’ compensation entitlements.

“These tests can be life changing for workers like Graham."

Graham Bowcock had part of his lung removed just two days before his 71st birthday.

Now he’s about to turn 74, and while he still has pain and struggles to breathe with certain exercises, he’s grateful for the time he has left.

So is his wife, Celia Bowcock, who pushed Graham to get his lungs checked.

“If I hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have asked about the cough,” said Celia.

Her advice for other partners in a similar position?

“Just drag them to a doctor and get them tested,” she said.

“It’s better to find out it’s nothing than it’s too far down the track to do anything about it.”

Former workers can request a free lung health check at a local authorised doctor or on board the mobile service by contacting the Mine Dust Health Support Service on 1300 445 715.

Upcoming 'HEART5' dates and locations:

Whitsunday Gold Coffee, Bruce Highway, Proserpine: 8 November 2023

Resources Centre of Excellence, 65 Crichtons Road, Paget: 9-10 November 2023


Media contact
Amy McCann
0457 094 250

Last updated: 19 Oct 2023