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Surgeon advocates for better black lung disease treatment

Updated: Mar 11,2015 10:29 AM     chinadaily.com.cn

As a thoracic surgeon and a deputy to the National People’s Congress, Chen Jingyu said he has been doing two things over the years, namelys performing operations on patients and pleading on behalf of workers with pneumoconiosis.

More than 720,000 workers nationwide reported their pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, to the China Coal Miner Pneumoconiosis Prevention and Treatment Foundation. About 440,000 of them, or 62 percent, were from the mining industry, a report released by the foundation said on Feb 6.

Chen met with Zhang Haichao, a migrant worker who had his chest opened up in 2009 so samples of his lungs could be tested to prove he had black lung disease, in Beijing on March 2, gmw.cn reported.

Chen, an expert in respiratory diseases with Wuxi People’s Hospital in Jiangsu province, carried out the lung transplant operation on Zhang two years ago, and Zhang can now live like a normal person.

“My suggestion this year is related to black lung disease,” Chen said.

It’s estimated that there are 6 million workers with pneumoconiosis nationwide, of which 90 percent are rural residents. The number increases by 20,000 workers every year, according to a survey released by a special foundation targeted on the pneumoconiosis patients under the China Social Assistance Foundation in July.

“Ninety percent of the occupational disease is black lung disease,” Chen said, “However, the diagnosis and treatment of the lung disease as an occupational disease according to existing laws and regulations leads to ineffective treatment for these patients, because it takes more time to make a diagnosis.”

“Before seeking the hazard contact history or confirming the subject of the liability, the medical diagnosis has to be made first, to avoid the delay in treatment,” Chen said.

Black lung disease and other similar diseases which are work environment related should be added to the list of occupational diseases, Chen said.

Lots of black lung disease patients have difficulties in identifying the disease and therefore delay treatment, Chen said.

“Black lung disease can not only be treated in occupational disease hospitals. Normal hospitals can also treat the disease,” Chen said.

To Chen’s relief, the related departments have become aware of the problem in recent years thanks to his and other volunteers’ advocacy.

Precautions against and treatments for black lung disease need to be made more effective, according to a document released by the State Council in 2013.

“The positive signal indicates that our suggestion works and national attention is being paid to black lung disease,” Chen said.

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