The New York University School of Medicine has teamed up with Bellevue Hospital to open a health center in response to a 60-percent rise in Sept. 11-related illnesses. The center will treat those who were exposed to the debris following the World Trade Center collapse.
The World Trade Center Environmental Health Center will provide screenings, evaluations and treatments for potential medical and mental health patients -- including those who may be uninsured or undocumented, said Alan Aviles, president of Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs the project.
It plans to offer most of its services for free. "(Health and Hospitals) is playing an integral role in the city's plans to address critical gaps and further assist New Yorkers suffering from World Trade Center-related health conditions," Aviles said. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City have pledged $16 million over a period of five years to treat 6,000 additional patients.
These patients include downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn residents, office workers, volunteers, and others exposed to the Sept. 11 debris. Health advocacy groups, such as the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, have criticized the city for not responding proactively enough to the air contamination in downtown Manhattan after the terrorist attacks.
"Despite the fact that hundreds of firefighters became ill on the first day following the attack, the city never made a serious, energetic effort to provide respiratory protection," said Jonathan Bennett, director of public affairs for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
Government agencies invited people to return to lower Manhattan immediately to speed up the recovery process and reopen Wall Street as soon as possible, Bennett said. He cited incomplete reports by the Environmental Protection Agency following the attack: The reports ignored traces of carcinogens and other toxins in the air.
The center currently has more than 800 patients with conditions like asthma, sinusitis and shortness of breath, said clinic director Joan Reibman in an interview with the New York Post. Center officials declined to comment for this story. The clinic plans to hire more bilingual staff to provide assistance for non-English-speaking patients. "We will never abandon those who gave heroically during those difficult days," Bloomberg said in a press release.
Written by U-WIRE
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