A dilapidated facility in eastern China offers minimal care for ‘miner’s lung’ sufferers as the number of cases increases. Julie Noce reports.
Miners with lung disease get little help at China facility
Seventy-nine year old Shi Shan’er is a retired miner in eastern China.
In the 1960’s he spent some 12 hours a day, digging fluorite in dusty mines not unlike this one as part of Chairman Mao’s ill-fated industrialisation efforts.
Now he suffers from pneumoconiosis, or miner’s lung, an incurable disease caused by a failure to wear proper safety gear.
“We were digging holes and it was all dust,” he said. “My eyes were full of dust. My nose was full of dust. It also filled my mouth, I could only breath it in.”
Shi is one of the 160 patients at a hospital in Yangjia, once a state-of-the-art facility originally set up to care for generations of miners who contracted the disease.
But like many of the patients’ health, conditions at the hospital have declined sharply.
Hu Hushen has been living at the hospital for the past eight years and says he’s filled with regret.
(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) A DUST LUNG PATIENT, HU HUSHEN SAYING:
“I am regretful. It caused my illness. We only have about 315 dollars for retirement pay. How can I not regret? It’s the lowest retirement pay here. We worked so hard. I feel so much regret.”
Government legislation is in place requiring employers to guarantee adequate safety gear for their workers, but advocacy groups say it’s often not enforced.
With around 20,000 diagnoses each year, ‘minor’s lung’ is the occupational disease with the highest mortality rate in China.