The Maritime Union has made a strong case to the NSW Minister for Ports about the breakdown in communications with ship crews and port management after a Filipino seafarer was recently hospitalised for more than three weeks in Wollongong hospital with a case of leprosy.
The case was made by the MUA's Southern NSW Branch secretary Garry Keane and ITF Australian coordinator Dean Summers at a high level meeting with the Ports Minister Paul Mcleay his advisors and representative of the Minister for Health this week.
In attendance also were Port Kembla Port Corporation's CEO Dom Figliomeni, representatives of the NSW Health Department and secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris.
The crew member left the Greek flagged Agios Nikolas bulk carrier and entered the hospital on April 2 and the next day the ship sailed with a load of coal for the Japanese port of Fukuyama.
"Where the protocols and communications broke down was after the man was admitted to hospital", said Keane.
"The Health Department told the Minister it had issues with the right to privacy of the individual who was admitted with suspected leprosy and tuberculosis. We explained that in an isolated situation that's OK but not when this person has come from a ship which can act as an incubator of diseases like this.
"There is the matter of the rights and health of the crew that may have come into contact with the seafarer and their right to be given a warning. Also dock workers that may have been contacted at other ports when the ship travelled on to Japan.
"We understand that it may take prolonged exposure for leprosy to be transmitted but the crew and others the seafarer may have worked with will have been in close quarters with him for some time. There is also a range of people who could potentially come into contact with him who should have been informed of the possible contagion", said Keane.
"The Minister and the Port CEO were very supportive and the Health Department has agreed to a further meeting after the current protocols are further assessed."
A major disappointment was that a key agency in this matter, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, did not show for the meeting.
Garry Keane: 0419 724 433
Michael Meagher: 0410 482367