Proposals are being sought for the training of healthcare professionals to help the diagnosis and treatment of dust diseases.
A $3 million grant program to help educate healthcare professionals about silicosis and other dust-related diseases is now open for applications.
This week, the Federal Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney confirmed the Government is seeking proposals for online training to support doctors to use National Guidance material published by the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH), among other initiatives.
Additional occupational dust diseases being considered as part of the program include asbestosis, coal worker’s pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mesothelioma, work-related asthma, and occupational lung infections.
The initiative comes as the Government also creates a National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry to ‘help detect new and emerging health threats, and support research, intervention and prevention strategies’.
Silicosis is a preventable respiratory disease that has recently seen a rise in cases, in part due to the emerging popularity of engineered stone material.
Lung Foundation research estimates up to 600,000 Australian workers are potentially exposed to silica dust each year.
It is also estimated that each year 230 people develop lung cancer due to past exposure to silica dust at work.
Dr Kerry Hancock, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Respiratory Medicine, said GPs have a crucial, frontline role in identifying patients who are at risk or have been exposed to occupational dust, especially respirable silica dust particles that cause silicosis.
‘And it’s happening younger – in particular, young men in their 20s and 30s, not just people in their 60s and 70s,’ Dr Hancock told newsGP.
The grants program covers the following four key areas:
- online training to support GPs and other doctors
- targeted education and training for health professionals
- building radiologists’ skills in chest imaging
- training materials for multi-disciplinary teams to support diagnosis and treatment, and develop a national community spirometry program.
Dr Hancock said the more knowledge GPs can arm themselves with the better, and expressed concern for people who may be missing out on crucial care.
‘It’s not common but it is very serious,’ she said.
‘If you know that somebody is exposed, they need to actually stop being exposed which is a big thing for many men who work, because they often don’t have other skills.
‘If you take them away from it, you can’t undo the damage that’s already been done but you can stop further damage.’
Applications for the grants program are open until 8 September this year, with details on the Federal Government website.
For more information, healthcare professionals can consult the National Guidance for doctors assessing workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust.
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