|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2007
Remarks by Alan D. Aviles
President, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation
Press conference to Announce
Expansion of World Trade Center Environmental Health Center to Two New
Sites and Call for Sustained Federal Funding
"I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for once again demonstrating his unwavering confidence in our city's public hospital system. The original $16 million in dedicated City funding allowed us to create the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue as a specialized and comprehensive Center of Excellence, and now, as you’ve heard, the additional $33 million funding commitment over the next five years allows us to extend that Center of Excellence to two additional sites, one here at Gouverneur and another at Elmhurst Hospital Center.
"The three sites will be run as one consolidated Center of Excellence under central clinical and administrative leadership, with Dr. Joan Reibman serving as the Medical Director for the overall program, and Terry Miles, Bellevue’s Chief Operating Officer moving over to assume the full-time role as the Executive Administrator of the multi-site program.
"All three sites will continue to recruit staff to increase their treatment capacity in the months ahead and will follow the uniform screening and treatment protocols developed by Dr. Reibman in consultation with her colleagues. At current funding levels, we expect to create sufficient capacity to serve upwards of 20,000 patients suffering from WTC related health conditions.
"Going forward, we will promote one telephone number by which patients can gain access to any of the three sites. That number is 1-877-WTC-0107. Individuals also can call 311 and be routed to the same dedicated WTC Center number. Callers will be directed to one of the three sites based on several factors, including the caller’s immediate medical needs, where the caller lives, any stated preference, and the relative appointment availability at each of the three sites.
"Of course, patients will be seen without regard to their immigration or insurance status, and will have no out-of-pocket expenses for the treatment of any condition related to the WTC disaster. For those individuals who do not speak English, or who prefer to communicate in a native language other than English, there will be a wide range of interpretation services available at each of the three sites.
"The Mayor mentioned our collaborative work with the Beyond Ground Zero Network and other community based organizations that constitute the Community Advisory Committee for the Center. I cannot stress enough how instrumental these community organizations have been -- and continue to be -- in helping us to identify affected patients and to tailor our program to better meet the needs of those patients.
"We look forward to working closely with these community groups as we expand outreach and link more affected patients to care at each of the three sites.
"Finally, I want to publicly thank Dr. Reibman for her dedicated and inspired leadership of the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue, and her clinical collaborators Drs. Irwin Berlin and Judy Su, who will each take the lead in ensuring that the same expert care is provided at Elmhurst and Gouverneur.
"Dr. Reibman, as many of you know by now, is a pulmonologist at Bellevue and a faculty member of the NYU School of Medicine. As Director of the Bellevue Asthma program, she began treating workers and residents with WTC-related illness very soon after 9/11.
"Dr. Berlin is the Director of Pulmonology at Elmhurst and a faculty member of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Several years ago, he established a Mobile Health Van service in Western Queens to conduct screenings of day laborers who helped in the clean up of apartment and office buildings post 9/11. He found many of them suffering from WTC related respiratory issues and post-traumatic stress.
"Dr. Su recently joined the staff here at Gouverneur. She has trained with Dr. Reibman at Bellevue and will be the lead physician treating patients enrolled in the Center at Gouverneur.
"These three physician leaders and the many staff who work along side them exemplify the City’s commitment to our mission, our communities and our patients."