Belfast Telegraph

Asbestos group gets centre base

by Natalie Irvine

A north Belfast asbestosis sufferer has been given a base to run his voluntary support and guidance service to other people suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

Last week, former dockland worker Arthur Rafferty relocated his advice drop-in service from his home, to a more formal setting at the NICVA building in Duncairn Gardens.

He said: “Last week there were around 25 people out to visit me at my home, morning, noon and night — all looking for advice on their individual situation and what next steps they can take.

“There is nowhere else for them to go. We are the only support group available to signpost people who are facing this illness. We now have around 25 volunteers helping to meet the demand of people looking for such information.

“MP Nigel Dodds and MLA Robin Newton have been instrumental in helping secure this room at Duncairn Gardens and I thank them very much for their help and continued support.”

He continued: “In the beginning I set up the support group for dockland workers, but in May this year I amalgamated the group so that it is now open to anyone who is suffering from an asbestos related illness.

“It's now called Asbestos Support Northern Ireland (ASNI).

“I have had plumbers, builders and so many other people approach us for advice and support, people coming from south Belfast as well as north — and of course, some have been very ill indeed so we continue to carry out home visits.”

Arthur contracted the disease himself, after working for years at the shipyard — to his frustration he found there was a lack of information when he was diagnosed with asbestosis, caused by inhaling deadly asbestos dust.

“We hope to raise awareness, offer support and act as a lifeline to those who feel isolated as they have no one to turn to,” he said.

“I also found doctors over here are not experienced enough to identify asbestosis and I also feel they put people off the idea if the subject is raised, as what happened me and other sufferers I know — I had to journey to Liverpool to be diagnosed by Dr Chris Warburton.”

Dr Warburton, who is the leading consultant and current clinical director of the Chest unit at Aintree Hospital, has been the lead clinician for the Mersey regional lung cancer service.

Arthur added: “Dr Warburton said he is most willing to examine anyone else who we find through our support group who has encountered problems in getting a diagnosis — he even told me he is willing to come to Northern Ireland to carry out the examination if need be.”

For more information email info@justicefordockers.com or telephone Arthur on 07715921137.

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