South Africa. The Assmang manganese company has denied suggestions that it deliberately “got rid” of any doctor or medical specialist who diagnosed its workers with manganese poisoning.
Company attorney Willem le Roux objected when workers’ attorney Richard Spoor made the suggestion during cross-examination of Cato Ridge general practitioner Pieter Erasmus during a Labour Department hearing on Monday.
Erasmus, who was involved in the treatment and diagnosis of several Assmang workers under a subcontracting arrangement with Life Health Care, said his involvement at Assmang ended in October 2007 when a new contract was awarded to Dr Murray Coombs of Elixir Corporate Health Solutions.
Spoor asked if Erasmus knew why all the other experts had “fallen by the wayside”, along with the body of knowledge they had accumulated on the Assmang cases.
Spoor said the impression had been created that any medical practitioner who was likely to confirm a diagnosis of manganism was “likely to be got rid of”. Le Roux interjected immediately to object to “misleading statements” being made for the apparent benefit of the media.
Spoor, however, said while the suggestion might be damaging for Assmang, it appeared that “every independent professional who had the temerity to diagnose people with manganism” had indeed been disposed of.
“That is a blatant lie,” complained Le Roux, who did not elaborate on the reasons why several of these doctors were no longer involved with the Assmang cases.
Proceedings were interrupted briefly when Do Vale abandoned the witness stand and leaped to the assistance of Assmang family member Derrick Hammond who collapsed inside the inquiry hall.
Hammond is the father-in-law of Freddie Wright, an Assmang foreman who died in hospital in 2007, apparently from multiple organ failure. Wright was off work at the time, after a screening test suggested he might be suffering from manganese toxicity.
Late on Monday, Assmang Chief Executive Bryan Broekman took the witness stand again to read out his third supplementary affidavit, which challenged the methods used to measure dust levels by several independent occupational health inspectors.
But even if some of these dust sampling results were not rejected by the inquiry, then the blame lay with some of the workers for failing to wear respiratory protection equipment in areas of the factory where dust levels were high, he said.
Source: The Mercury
August 26, 2008