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Worker undergoes chest operation to prove occupational disease

A WORKER in Henan Province underwent a chest operation to prove he had a work-related ailment after his former employer refused to pay compensation after the local occupational disease authority denied he had developed the illness.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions has launched an investigation into the case, Orient Today newspaper reported.

Zhang Haichao, a 28-year-old native of Henan's Xinmi City, started feeling unwell in August 2007. He visited more than 10 hospitals in Zhengzhou, Henan, and Beijing, where he was diagnosed with pneumoconiosis, an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust, the Zhengzhou-based newspaper said.

He linked the disease to his work at Zhendong Abrasive Materials Co Ltd from August 2004 to October 2007, where he had taken three jobs, all having close contact with dust.

To demand compensation from Zhendong, Zhang went to Zhengzhou Occupation-related Diseases Control and Prevention Center for a health assessment. According to rules, the center is the only authority permitted to diagnose occupational diseases in the province.

In May, the center denied Zhang had developed the disease and suggested Zhang had tuberculosis and needed TB treatment.

Unconvinced, Zhang visited the 1st Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University and insisted on surgery to open his chest to prove he had pneumoconiosis.

"Doctors told me it was dangerous to undergo that surgery, and they said they knew I was suffering from pneumoconiosis by looking at the X-ray film. But I had no choice," Zhang told the newspaper.

During the operation on June 22, doctors detected a large quantity of coal dust residue in his lungs.

On July 1, Zhang checked out of the hospital as he failed to pay the medical costs. He said he had spent about 90,000 yuan (US$13,175.19) in medical expenses.

Learning of this operation, the occupational control and prevention center said Zhang, can apply for another medical assessment with this new proof.

But the center's director Li Guoyu still defended the original assessment, saying it was made according to standards.

Zhang was suspected of developing pneumoconiosis as early as January 2007 at a medical exam organized by Zhendong, according to Gen Aiping, director of Xinmi medical station, which provided the exam. But he didn't know about it until this January when he checked the results.

Zhendong didn't notify Zhang about the results, nor did it pass the recheck notice to him, the report said.

The company was relocating and lost the notice, an unnamed company official told Orient Today.

The official said Zhendong is willing to compensate only if the authentic occupational control and prevention center's assessment confirms Zhang has pneumoconiosis.

Zhang is not the first Zhendong worker to develop pneumoconiosis, according to today's Henan Daily.

Zhang Xicai was diagnosed with the disease in November 2006. He died before starting the occupational disease assessment procedure.


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