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Anti Spray Health Support Group Formed

Anti Spray Health Support Group Formed

Sally Lewis, one of the aerial spray evacuees, has formed a health support group for those who she sees as having been marginalised by MAF. They have been meeting informally since March 2002. She says she has been deluged with calls from those suffering severe adverse health effects from the spray. There is no support available for these people, she says. Many have been refused evacuation by MAF and are being pressured to sign consent forms which would give MAF doctors access to victims' entire medical history and health records normally held confidential by a person's GP. She considers this to be an abuse of patients' privacy and is recommending that spray victims do not sign this form.

Many of those contacting Sally recount disturbing stories of the way they have been treated by doctors at Aer Aqua - the medical consultancy contracted by MAF to provide medical assessment and advice. Patients complain of having received no examinations or treatment, instead they are often sent for a raft of tests and x-rays and then told their symptoms are not spray related. Many have been told their symptoms are psychosomatic or due to other causes. They are then sent back to their GPs in spite of GPs often having provided letters or certificates saying their health has been affected by the spray. Some doctors have reported a 50% increase in asthma cases. Patients have also reported burning throats and eyes, severe skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhoea and persistent headaches. There have also been some cases of severe anaphylactic shock.

Other evacuees, including a pregnant woman and her young children, have reported instances of being caught outside in the spray due to mismanagement of their evacuation by MAF officials. Many of these people are now experiencing chronic health effects including severe diarrhoea and bleeding from the bowel.

Sally says she has set up her support group in response to the victimisation of spray sufferers by MAF and believes there is an urgent need to provide more funding to help these people out of the $90 million given to MAF by the government for the eradication programme.

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