Free health screenings for miners

The Memorial Hospital is teaming with the nation's leading respiratory center to offer free health screenings to miners.

About 70 mine workers are signed up for the free health exam, according to Dr. Cecile Rose, medical director of the Miners' Clinic of Colorado. Rose is a 16-year veteran staff physician at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, which opened the Miners' Clinic.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, National Jewish will send staff members to TMH to provide the service.

TMH will donate clinical space for the two-day program, said Pam Thompson, the hospital's community relations director.

"It's something we really wanted to do because it's beneficial to the community, especially the miners," Thompson said.

Miners will undergo physical examinations, chest X-rays, breathing tests and other diagnostic procedures. The goal is to detect mining-related illnesses early and initiate treatment as soon as possible, Rose said.

Research shows that even non-smoking miners are more likely to develop emphysema than people in the general populace, Rose said. Mine workers can come down with black lung, silicosis and even tuberculosis.

Dust impairs the lungs' defenses, making them less able to ward off the bacteria that causes TB, Rose said.

Active miners aren't the only targeted patient population. Former miners and retired miners should get checked out, too, Rose said.

The mining industry has made improvements in dust suppression and work practices, which made the occupation safer. Despite the significant advances, there's still room for improvement, Rose said.

Lifelong miners could have damaged their lungs early in their careers. But because ailments such as black lung aren't discovered immediately, it's important to undergo the tests, Rose said.

"Black lung is a disease that can take a long time to show up," Rose said. "The effects may go back to exposures that occurred 30 years ago. Our screening program isn't just for active miners."

Conditions such as black lung and silicosis result from scarring in the lungs. In the early stages, the ailments may only show up on a chest X-ray. Later, patients complain of shortness of breath, coughing and phlegm.

Although 70 miners are signed up, Rose said there is room for more.

"We're taking the program out to the parts of Colorado where there are a lot of miners," Rose said. "We're very eager to be as busy as we can be while we're there."

The exam takes about one hour to 90 minutes.

Those who want to sign up can call the National Jewish Medical and Research Center at 1-877-BLK-LUNG.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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