Hazelwood Health Study won’t expand

The State Government will not expand the Hazelwood Health Study’s major survey to include residents outside of Morwell or first responders, in line with an independent review.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Tuesday including emergency service workers in the existing health study into the long-term effects of the Hazelwood Mine Fire was “not the best way to improve health outcomes for first responders” and had the potential to impact on the scientific validity of the study.

Ms Hennessy said the government recognised it needed “a better way to monitor, respond and intervene” when it came to the health impacts emergency service workers were exposed to, but it would develop “a whole government package”.

She did not reveal the details of this package, but said it would aim to improve the health outcomes of first responders and gain a better understanding of the health impacts of working in emergency services.

The independent review of the health study found the cost of extending it to include emergency responders and other Latrobe Valley residents would outweigh the health and economic benefits.

Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer said it was “disappointing” the government was “putting a price” on the health of the community.

“I don’t think the cost to protect emergency workers should be considered,” Ms Farmer said.

“We’ve got to remember a lot are volunteers who give up their time and their health to protect us and they should be looked after at all times.

“They should be included.”

Ms Farmer also criticised the government’s decision not to expand the Adult Survey component of the study to include non-Morwell residents.

“That is disappointing also because we know the smoke was detected across all of the Latrobe Valley,” Ms Farmer said.

“Once again, what is the cost to health? A lot of people across the Valley are concerned about their health and that of their family and want to be included.”

Despite her disappointment, Ms Farmer praised the government’s plans to make the Latrobe Valley Australia’s first ‘health innovation zone’, which will look at the health of the Latrobe Valley in its entirety.

Also in response to the review, the government will establish a Hazelwood Health Study Ministerial Advisory Committee to ensure “independent oversight, transparency and better engagement” with the community. Ms Hennessy said the committee would “work side by side with the Latrobe Health Assembly to make better use of data and ensure findings are shared with the community, health practitioners and health planners”.

The government will also include the potential health impacts of carbon monoxide as part of the existing study.