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ข่าวประจำวัน : Federal money for 9/11 health woes just a start, say survivors

New York - What with the asthma, trauma, depression and 13 medications a day, life has all but stopped for Marvin Bethea, a paramedic who was buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

 Despite three years off work and several stints in hospital, the 47-year-old still considers himself lucky. "I'm one of the fortunate to have health coverage," he says, laboring between breaths.

 Like many others caught up in the September 11 attacks, Bethea wants Washington to do more for the rescuers, volunteers and residents suffering ill health due to their exposure to toxic dust and rubble near Ground Zero.

 The first federal funding for those suffering from conditions such as asthma or lung disease was unveiled Tuesday, when President George W. Bush announced 25 million dollars for a program at New York's Mount Sinai hospital.

 Bush on Wednesday met Ceasar Borja, the 21-year-old son of a New York cop who died last week of lung problems developed since working at Ground Zero, to discuss the federal measures.

 Borja became an instant spokesman for those suffering conditions related to the September 11 attacks when he attended Bush's State of the Union address in Washington last week on the same day his father died.

 "I expressed how the funding should be expanded, not for just the heroes and heroines that were present there," Borja told reporters after his talks with Bush, who was in New York to visit the stock exchange.

 "Everyone should be taken care of and paid for completely by the federal government," he added.

 According to Mount Sinai, which runs a program dedicated to those suffering September 11-related illnesses, 250 million dollars a year are needed to tackle the issue and cope with the volume of patients.

 New York Senator Hillary Clinton has requested 1.9 billion dollars in federal money for the care program. "I am grateful for this first step but there is a long road ahead," Clinton said.

 Bush said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday that no rescuers involved in the 9/11 cleanup operation should be without help, but others have urged the safety net to be spread far wider -- and not just cover rescuers.

 "Those who rushed into harm's way were heroes. And they ought to be honored. And I also believe that they ought not to go without health care," Bush said.

 "We're going to work with Congress to make sure that those folks who went into harm's way don't go without health care", he added.

 But in New York, people like Bethea are still waiting.

 "I do appreciate the 25 million that he gave, it's nice, but it's a drop in a bucket," Bethea, who helps run the group "Unsung Heroes Helping Heroes," says. "Twenty-five million is not going to do it... There's a lot of frustration too, because this has been going on for five years."

The former paramedic says he has been to Washington 12 times in the last two years to press the case of September 11 rescuers but was never met by the president.

 In the last three years he has been into hospital seven times. He explains that his medication costs 1,100 dollars a month, and although he is covered by health insurance, not everyone is so lucky.

 "People are losing their homes, I know this gentleman who had to go with his child's college fund because he had no more money. People get their lights turned off, families are breaking up because finances are a strain on a marriage", he says.

 The press has also started to express increased frustration. "It will be up to the president to deliver the real and substantial resources that only the federal government can muster for the heretofore forgotten victims of 9/11", the Daily News said in a recent editorial.

 "What About Us?", the Newsday tabloid asked in a front page story featuring a police officer with brain cancer.

 Research by Mount Sinai Medical Center released in September found several thousand police officers, firefighters, construction workers, office workers and volunteers were still suffering respiratory problems.

 An estimated 40,000 people helped clear debris from the site of the World Trade Center in late 2001 and early 2002, many of whom did not wear face masks.

 Scientists believe their symptoms are linked to the fine particles released from the debris and inhaled deep into the lungs.

 An autopsy carried out on a 34-year-old police officer last year for the first time established an official link between respiratory complaints and the hours workers spent sifting through the rubble at Ground Zero.

 For David Newman, from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, the priorities are to develop long term care for those affected and to properly address the impact on local residents, not just emergency responders.

 "What we're faced with fundamentally is a public health crisis," he says.

 "It warrants a concerted, rather than a piecemeal public health response."

Agence France Presse

ข่าวประจำวัน : 14 February 2007
แหล่งที่มา The Nation
อ่าน 221





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