The announcement of a public lung function testing facility at the reopening of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry was “unexpected” to Latrobe Regional Hospital after months of in-house development.
Latrobe Regional Hospital chief medical officer Simon Fraser said the setting up of the service was not specific to the mine fire, but much broader.
State Health Minister Jill Hennesy announced $60,000 for the public testing equipment, as well as $100,000 for a free health clinic at Latrobe Community Health Service last month.
Dr Fraser said the equipment was not specific to Gippsland or Latrobe Valley mines, and not necessarily related to the mine fire.
He said it was inevitable in any large population that people would suffer chronic respiratory issues and the equipment would allow baseline testing and instigate treatment.
“This lung function testing can be done in all age groups, children from seven to eight years old, adults, the elderly, chronic patients and asbestos-related diseases,” Dr Fraser said.
“Concerns about the mine fire will be a small component of patients, but important.”
The lung function testing equipment, which measures the lungs’ airways and their effectiveness getting oxygen into the blood stream and carbon dioxide out, is the first public facility of its kind in the Latrobe Valley.
However, The Express understands local private respiratory services in the Valley have offered some bulk billing.
This includes Regional Respiratory Service in the consulting suites of LRH.
“As far as I’m aware, there are two private lung function testing facilities,” Dr Fraser said, also referencing Maryvale Private Hospital.
Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support chief executive Vicki Hamilton said the facility would be of benefit to the whole community.
Ms Hamilton said she knew of other private facilities that bulk billed lung function testing through her work assisting those suffering asbestos-related disease.
“The fact is everybody in the community needs access to the facility. I presume that’s how it’s working, not just for people for the (mine) fire,” Ms Hamilton said.