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Operation confirms black lung
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Zhang Haichao felt he had no other choice but to go under the knife and have open chest surgery to prove he was suffering from deadly black lung disease.

The 28-year-old Henan native believed previous tests that barred him from free treatment were wrong and underwent the risk of surgery for a second diagnosis.

Previously, the government-designated Zhengzhou Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment Center diagnosed him as suspected black lung disease plus TB, which denied him free treatment and compensation, Orient Today reported.

After testing Zhang's lung tissues, doctors with the leading First Hospital Affiliated with the Zhengzhou University in Henan province diagnosed him as having pneumoconiosis, otherwise known as black lung disease, a major occupational hazard in some industries.

"I took the risk of surgery to prove that the diagnosis made by the Center through chest X-ray analysis is untrue and to finally get my free treatment," said Zhang, who had drained all his savings for treatment.

Tissue testing through open chest surgery is more accurate than other procedures, including X-ray analysis, to diagnose lung-related diseases like pneumoconiosis, medical experts say.

Zhang began to develop flu-like symptoms like coughing and breathing trouble in late 2007 after working for a local small fireproof material factory for three years where he was constantly exposed to health hazards like dust.

Before being tested at the center, he had undergone chest X-rays at several major hospitals.

A division director with the centre, who didn't want to be named, told China Daily yesterday they did the medical examination for Zhang and issued the diagnosis according to legal procedures and professional standards.

"Our diagnosis is correct and the suggestion appropriate," he insisted. "As a designated medical institution for occupational disease prevention and control for 33 years, we are quite experienced in diagnosing all kinds of work-related diseases like pneumoconiosis."

A person who disagrees with a diagnosis can apply to the local medical authority for another examination, according to the State occupational disease law, which promises free treatment and compensation for patients diagnosed by designated medical institutions.

Nearly 640,000 people in China suffer from pneumoconiosis, with 10,000 new cases reported each year, according to the Ministry of Health.

The country's 250 million migrant workers, who mostly work in small- and medium-sized enterprises, are most vulnerable to occupational diseases, said Su Zhi, a health ministry official.

Industries with work-related hazards should also have strict monitoring systems in place to supervise work safety, he said.

(China Daily July 21, 2009)

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