Former spray hands dealing with the effects of working with toxic chemicals for years have been left bewildered by the state government’s scheme to help them.
Announced with great fanfare earlier in the year in response to wide-ranging inquiry into their exposure to toxic chemicals, the government promised free medical checks for all former Lands Department workers from 1965 to 1995.
But this was only a telephone consultation with a doctor interstate who would then forward the answers to the worker’s own GP, and spray hands say many of them were not been notified about the screening anyway.
Barry Goldsmith said he only knew about the medical screening from reading The Courier.
“What’s the use in having (the screenings) if they’re not notified? Doesn’t take much to put in a note in the letterbox,” he said.
“It’s a waste of time having it if they haven’t notified (everyone).”
Fellow former Lands Department worker Don Humphrey said nobody was notified.
He also questioned the value of talking to a doctor on the phone from Queensland who had a checklist.
“How can you give me a medical from 2000 kilometres away?”
The screenings are to check for a history of chloracne, soft tissue sarcoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is these conditions and cancers that have been linked to the use of the toxic chemicals used by the spray hands.
The Courier put questions to former state Environment Minister Lisa Neville earlier in the month over the processes. Her portfolio changed this week in the reshuffle.
While still in charge of the Lands Department inquiry follow up, she said a contractor was looking after the medical screenings.
“There is no health screening being undertaken interstate or outside of Victoria. The health screening is being undertaken by United Healthcare Group (UHG). UHG's office is located in Prahran, Victoria,” she said.
The government said it was still contacting former Lands Department workers, disputing the men’s claims only those who found out independently would get the screenings.
A spokeswoman also said on Thursday that depending on the answers to the questionnaire UHG could order further testing.
Overall, Mr Goldsmith said it was a dismaying set of events.
“Seems from our side, seems to have turned into bit of a farce,” he said.
Mr Goldsmith said by the time they had a final report next year even more of his former colleagues would have died.
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