Mine fire health clinic welcomed

THE announcement of an identifiable place to raise health concerns has been considered a sign of “recognition”, despite coming more than 12 months after the Hazelwood mine fire engulfed the Latrobe Valley.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennesy announced about $100,000 funding for a free health clinic at Latrobe Community Health Service in Morwell at the reopening of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry last week.

A registered nurse will be available Monday to Friday at the clinic solely set-up to assess residents’ health as a result of the mine fire.

This includes respiratory health checks, cardiovascular risk assessment, waist circumference measurements, blood glucose levels and psychological assessments, with funding available for psychologist referrals.

Morwell Neighbourhood House coordinator and former independent candidate Tracie Lund, who secured more than 25,000 signatures for a long term health study into the fire, said she believed clinical support was still needed.

“People still have respiratory issues, mental health problems that need to be addressed properly that are just bubbling away under the surface as well,” Ms Lund said.

She said she could not remember the last time the community had received so many State Government commitments, acknowledging community pressure on government.

“It’s the next step in recognition for this area,” Ms Lund said.

LCHS chief executive officer Ben Leigh had no direct relationship with the Hazelwood Mine Fire Health Study, but would provide “non-personalised top line” data such as age, gender and reason for coming, to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr Leigh said the clinic opened on Wednesday, and while primarily offering assessments, would use funding to support general practitioner and specialist referrals.

In response to questioning about the timing of the announcement, he said the community had expressed a need for residual impacts from the mine fire and was timely considering the reopening of the Inquiry.

Latrobe Regional Hospital also welcomed the announcement, receiving $60,000 funding to support the establishment of a public lung function testing service.

LRH chief executive Peter Craighead said planning for the new service had been underway for some months and equipment was being purchased.

“The service will begin seeing patients this year,” Mr Craighead said.

The free clinic at LCHS can be accessed Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm by drop in or appointment.