NCARD was pleased to host a visit from Occupational Medicine Specialist Dr Anna Suraya from Binawan University and Medical Centre, Jakarta – her second visit to NCARD, having previously visited in 2019 – and Mr Surya Ferdian, the Executive Office of APHEDA’s OHS partner in Indonesia – Local Initiative for OHS Network (LION) on Tuesday 17 May 2022. The visit was organised by Steve Mullins from APHEDA, amid uncertainty about whether local COVID restrictions would allow it to go ahead. All three were visiting Perth on their way to speak at the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) Conference being held this week in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
It is humbling to meet with occupational health advocates from Indonesia and other neighbouring countries. A particularly sad irony at the QEII Medical Centre, where NCARD is located, is that the hospital at its centre was originally built in 1958 to counter the issue of tuberculosis, a health crisis that had been largely managed in Western Australia by the time Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital was completed; whereas this remains a very immediate concern in Indonesia.
Meeting with NCARD Acting Director Professor Richard Lake and Program Manager Dr Tanya Ward, Anna and Surya described the mountain of challenges they face in Indonesia to identify and address health concerns from asbestos, a country which continues to both manufacture and use asbestos-containing products. An inability to accurately diagnose mesothelioma – for reasons that include a lack of resources and the prevalence of TB confounding diagnosis – means that the size of the problem can’t be measured, a natural first step to address impact. Recent unionisation of workers may be an avenue to provide protections in the future, but the current focus is on more immediate concerns such as wages.
Both Anna and Surya and their organisations continue to work with and be supported by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA), who hosted them at their Osborne Park offices the previous day, as well as the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) in Sydney, and Prof Ken Takahashi.
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Kofi Stevens gave a tour of the lab, giving both an excellent overview of our main avenues of research, and the resources NCARD is privileged to have at our disposal.