An ongoing investigation by the Socialist Equality Party
Testimony of Lupco Ilioski
'To get the truth out, workers have to speak up'
Lupco Ilioski is a BHP coke ovens worker and the brother of Goce Ilioski, who died of leukaemia on August 22, 1996, aged 21. In his testimony Lupco condemned both the Health Unit report and the medical treatment that his brother received. The following is an edited report of his evidence.
The Health Unit report was a total cover-up for BHP. No answers came out. They say that benzene levels weren't that high, but a couple of years ago, there were benzene tanks at the coke ovens. They eventually got removed, but where are the readings for that?
Everybody was very angry at the meeting of the families when the Health Unit handed out its report, and very sad because they couldn't get any answers. It looks like BHP is controlling the whole of Australia.
The Health Unit did not want to know about the leukaemia cases from the beginning. After all the phone calls that Melissa Cristiano made, they finally said they would come out and do a soil test at Warrawong High.
Then they announced they had done a test overnight and it was safe for kids to go back to school. There is no way they could have done a soil test and had it analysed in that time. The whole area is filled with slag and coalwash -- that is why Melissa wanted the testing.
I knew straight from that point onwards that the truth would not come out through the Health Unit. The government was holding off as much as they could, just so that people would just forget about it.
To get the truth out, workers themselves have to speak up. We need to stick together, try to get answers and fix the problem -- before other people get affected.
BHP Steel makes $600 million a year profit -- that should be spent on health and safety instead of cutting maintenance 30 percent. That should be done for everyone's safety.
Because the government is so tight with hospital funding, my brother passed away because Wollongong Hospital stopped his medication.
They first tried to do it three weeks earlier, saying that it was not worthwhile to keep him going, but we said: no way!
They suggested that instead of bringing him to hospital we should get a private service to care for him at home, which could give him injections when in pain. My father said he would sell the house and do anything to get proper treatment for Goce, but they ignored him.
All he needed was blood platelets to keep alive. He had to go into hospital because his sugar level was high. He went in looking perfectly healthy but he never came out. He had all his mates with him in hospital, talking and so on, when all of a sudden he could not walk and he started to run out of power.
They cut off his platelets to cut costs. They said to us: "Why don't we stop the medicine and let him go to his death." We said: "He's too young!" Then they told Goce that his platelets were not ready.
When he lost consciousness they just pumped in big doses of morphine and told my mother he would be alright. They killed him.
When the Health Unit reported was handed out my father approached Goce's doctor at the hospital, Pauline Warburton, who was on the Health Unit steering committee, and said to her: "The family has been hurting all this time and we would like to ask you: why did you cut off the medicine?"
She replied: "Sorry Peter, I have forgotten and I will have to look in the records to check and let you know."
Every nurse and doctor at the hospital knew Goce because he was always joking and carrying on. Someone working there told us to get him out of that hospital. We asked for him to be transferred to Sydney but they said they had no beds.