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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

  


 

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 Fighters:

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 symptoms secret.

 


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 dysfunctional family.

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 warranted.

 


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 pager 1-888-347-7593.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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