NZPFU medical screening programme underway in Christchurch

Significant break-through for NZPFU Members

NZPFU Southern Branch Secretary Jim Ryburn has been working with medical practitioners in Christchurch to develop an affordable medical assessment/screening relevant to the health risks associated with exposure to occupational hazards, including the increased risk of specific cancers.

This is the start of the journey of educating the medical profession in the health risks firefighters face as a result of their occupation and to ensure access to appropriate medical assessment and screening for firefighter occupational illness. Too often the medical profession sees a fit and healthy firefighter and refuses to undertake tests that are reserved for other at-risk groups or older patients. Generally we are finding the medical profession does not understand that testing to achieve a base line as well as screen for the illnesses that firefighters are particularly vulnerable to as a result of their occupation.

It is important that our members have testing to establish a base-line of their medical condition, and for early detection of medical conditions and cancers that are prevalent in firefighters.

NZPFU firefighter and communications centre members in Christchurch now have the opportunity to take part in a health assessment pilot programme which we hope to extend across the country.

Members were notified by text. Approximately 100 members have already responded requesting an appointment for the screening. Members will receive a follow-up text message.

The MeNZMedical centre in Christchurch has generously agreed to undertake a comprehensive medical assessment and health tests for NZPFU members for a significantly reduced rate of $170.00. The firefighter will have to pay for this assessment but it will provide a baseline of key health indicators and tests, as well as include screening for particular health risks including some occupational cancers. Dr Lewis Ball presented at the NZPFU conference held in Invercargill last month and provided the attached copy of an example of the types of medical assessment and tests undertaken. Once the tests results are in the consultation will not be the usual 15 minute appointment that many are restricted to. It will include a comprehensive assessment to ensure all health factors and history are being included.

While this scheme has been negotiated with the MeNZMedical centre, NZPFU women members can also take up this opportunity.

This is a significant achievement and we applaud Jim’s initiative and tenacity in getting this programme agreed and underway.

As this will be a private medical appointment between the member and the medical centre, the member is the only recipient of the assessment and test results. Those results will be explained by the medical practitioner. If a member receives test results that cause them concern, or are worried about the possible outcomes, then we encourage all members to access the wellbeing and support provided by FENZ as this assessment and testing is based on your risks as a firefighter.

We will now be working with Local’s around the country to get similar programmes underway for all members.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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