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PEP Jul-Aug 2013
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Public Employee Press

Free medical care for 9/11 workers

DC 37 Outreach Specialist Darrah Sipe helped Local 375 member and Ground Zero volunteer Ezra Ghazal register for free World Trade Center Health Program.

"I saw the towers struck on September 11, 2001," said Ezra Ghazal, an Engineering Auditor in Local 375. "I volunteered and saw the fires and destruction first hand." While at Ground Zero, the 27-year civil servant breathed the toxic fumes that have sickened many who worked and volunteered there.

With help from a federally funded outreach program at DC 37, Ghazal recently registered with the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides free medical monitoring and care for 9/11 workers, volunteers and survivors who may be sick from their exposure.

Ghazal never thought to register for medical monitoring until March, when he attended a DC 37 Health and Safety Dept. worksite session that introduced the new program. The outreach project helps register symptomatic WTC survivors, including residents, workers, students and passersby who lived, worked or attended school near the World Trade Center, North Brooklyn, the Pentagon, or Shanksville, Pa.

DC 37 advocated vigorously for the Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010, the legislation that created the WTC Health Program, which operates seven clinics in New York and a nationwide provider network.

The program screens survivors with symptoms connected with WTC exposure, explained DC 37 Outreach Specialist Darrah Sipe. "Many have repressed the experience to get on with daily life when in reality they need support," she said. The program offers comprehensive medical, physical and mental health exams, evaluations and care.

"My monitoring experience was excellent," Ghazal said. "During the daylong process, I was always with health-care professionals who escorted me through a range of different tests. I never felt I was waiting around for no reason." Ghazal's full medical report was sent to his primary care physician.

"DC 37 is demystifying the process and offering easy registration," Sipe said. "Eleven years later, too many people are not registered. Some don't want to remember; some do not feel sick, but anyone exposed deserves to be in this program." The program has reached 500,000 people through information sessions and social media.

"This is important to the members of DC 37, because thousands of brave and selfless men and women who assisted in the rescue and recovery effort after 9/11 are currently dealing with illnesses caused by their exposure," said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts.

For more information on the WTC Health Program call 888-982-4748 or visit http:// www.dc37.net/about/OSHA/wtchp.html.

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