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Orlando firefighters and paramedic
count now 30 and some are near death!.......
(WebMD), 8/4/01 10:28 p.m.
Press Statement of Harold A. Schaitberger, General President,
International Association of Fire Fighters Orlando, Florida WASHINGTON,
Aug. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a press statement of Harold A.
Schaitberger, General President, International Association of Fire
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, citizens of Orlando, and my
brother and sister fire fighters. My name is Harold Schaitberger and I
am the General President of the International Association of Fire
Fighters, representing a quarter-million professional fire fighters, who
protect 80 percent of the population across our nation. I am here today,
joined by our International Vice President Dominick Barbera, our Local
President Steve Clelland, and many of our Orlando fire fighters.
We are here to demand that the city of Orlando come clean on its
20-year conspiracy to hide medical records from its fire fighters and
other city employees, and make things right. Because of the city's cover
up there are fire fighters dying of Hepatitis C, an illness that has
been recognized by the state of Florida as one of many job-related
ailments that attack fire fighters and paramedics. There are fire
fighters who are suffering from other life- threatening diseases
directly related to the vital work they perform for the citizens of this
city. And who knows how many other local fire fighters might be ill and
still don't know it because city doctors did not inform them about the
medical conditions they detected during routine annual physicals.
I am shocked and frankly disgusted that a so-called progressive city
like Orlando would in effect be willing to impose a death sentence on
its fire fighters, all to save a few lousy dollars. In my more than 3
decades as a union advocate for our profession, I have never seen a case
as egregious as this one.
A week ago, there were 4 fire fighters who were wronged by the city,
including fire fighter Bob Flamily, who has been ravaged by Hepatitis C
and is now near death. Since then our local union and their attorney
have shamed the city into releasing decades worth of medical records and
more fire fighters have stepped forward after discovering that they too
face life-threatening diseases. And the number of fire fighters
afflicted with job-related illnesses continues to grow. It has now
reached 30 and we fear it is only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how
many other city employees have insidious time bombs in their bodies
because city officials who valued money over morality kept their
This city continues to resist comprehensive testing for all of its
fire fighters and retirees for Hepatitis C and my members across this
nation are asking why? The callous actions of city official's, decades
ago and today, have placed Orlando fire fighters at risk ...
unnecessarily. They have placed their families at risk. And they are
placing the citizens of Orlando and millions of tourists who visit this
city each year at risk, as well. If diagnosed during its early stages
and with proper treatment, there is hope for those infected by Hepatitis
C. At the late stages of the illness, there is only death.
I came to Orlando with the expectation of meeting with Mayor Glenda
Hood to see whether we could find some solution to this critical
problem. But my staff was told yesterday that she couldn't meet with me
today because she is on vacation. I can't help but wonder how the hell
can the mayor in good conscience go on vacation when fire fighters are
dying, when fire fighters are sick because of the city's insensitivity
and neglect? How can the mayor go on vacation when her city is rocked by
a scandal that grows in magnitude with new and more damning revelations
each day? It is a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
In the last election the Orlando fire fighters were some of Mayor
Hood's strongest supporters, but now she has turned her back on them.
Last week the mayor said she viewed Orlando fire fighters and other city
employees as her family. But the mayor's words rang hollow this morning
as Bob Flamily and his attorney appeared before a mediator to fight the
city's denial of his claim for worker's compensation benefits. To quote
the words of Orlando fire fighter Mike Morton, who also has Hepatitis C,
if this is how the mayor treats her city family, it is a pretty
To be fair to the mayor I don't want to suggest that she is
personally responsible for the reckless and negligent behavior of this
city against its fire fighters over the last 20 years. But the fact
remains that Mayor Hood is personally liable because she is the mayor.
The buck stops at her desk. She's in control. She can resolve this
matter right now. She can do the right thing. And she can avoid
litigation if she chooses to do so. But the mayor and her administration
remain in denial, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Rather than
instituting a comprehensive Hepatitis C testing program for fire
fighters and retired fire fighters, they are denying there is a problem.
They are denying Bob Flamily's Hepatitis C claim despite the fact that
he is dying of a job-related illness. They are denying that life-saving
medical information was kept secret from fire fighters despite the fact
that there is no written policy to provide those records to them. And
they are denying that there is any cover up of this deadly scandal
despite the fact that a former city employee has now said he was ordered
to destroy a report urging the city to adopt new policies to protect
fire fighters from Hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the city is not capable of
dealing with this tragic matter. In a desperate effort to protect its
reputation and its pocketbook, the city is willing to rewrite history
and condemn its public servants to death. I am afraid that the city of
Orlando can no longer be trusted to see that justice prevails. And I am
afraid that other damaging records may have been or will be misplaced or
destroyed to perpetuate this conspiracy.
To this end, the International Association of Fire Fighters will
formally request that Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth step in
to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter to protect the
interests of Orlando's fire fighters and its citizens. And we will ask
the Attorney General to assume control of all city records connected to
this matter to protect the integrity of the employees' medical records
and other pertinent documents and memorandums. The actions of the city
have gone beyond callousness and negligence. They now border on criminal
activity and an independent and comprehensive investigation is
Furthermore, I am putting the mayor and other city officials on
notice that the International Association of Fire Fighters stands firmly
beside the Orlando Fire Fighters Union in their quest to protect their
own safety and the safety of Orlando's citizens. We will commit our
substantial resources, our expertise, and our good name to this effort
to force the city to do what is right in this matter. And, if necessary,
we will bring thousands of professional fire fighters and other union
members into Orlando to rally support for our brothers and sisters here
-- and we will do it again and again and again -- until Justice
prevails. We will make sure that the world will be watching.
Finally, I urge the citizens of this city to join with your fire
fighters and the nation's fire fighters in bringing pressure to bear on
Mayor Hood and her administration so we can bring an end to this tragic
and shameful affair.
Thank you and I will entertain questions from the media.
Please contact George Burke, Assistant to the General President on
his office number 202-824-1506 or his cell phone 202-549-5084 or his