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Mount Isa retired miner encourages his mates to get free lung checks

20 February 2024

N.B. Bookings are essential for this service. RSHQ kindly asks that media promote the following line when writing stories: "To book, call the Mine Dust Health Support Service on 1300 445 715" or link to this website: Contact | Miners' health matters (rshq.qld.gov.au)

A mobile health unit that travels around regional Queensland offering free lung checks is returning to Mount Isa next month. 

The B-double truck called 'HEART5' is fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment to detect mine dust lung diseases like black lung and silicosis, and free testing is available to former Queensland mine and quarry workers. 

Mount Isa local, Graham Bowcock, 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 the regulator, 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 ‘HEART5’, operated by Heart of Australia. 

Since HEART5 launched in February 2022, it has travelled over 80,000 kilometres and administered more than 900 free lung checks, providing this important service across regional Queensland.

“I really urge all former Queensland 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 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:

Mount Isa


Buchanan Park Events Complex (Gate 9 - Sutton Street): 4-5 March 2024

VISION AND GRABS: HERE

ENDS

Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ) is the regulator of safety and health legislation across Queensland’s mining, quarrying, explosives (including fireworks) petroleum and gas industries. RSHQ’s priority is the safety and health of workers and the communities they operate in, with a vision of zero serious harm.

Media contact

Amy McCann

0457 094 250

media@rshq.qld.gov.au


Last updated: 20 Feb 2024