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Pennsylvania Gov. Schweiker Signs Bill Extending
Workers' Comp To
Emergency-Service Responders with Hepatitis C
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker
signed into law legislation that provides Pennsylvania's emergency-
responders with workers' compensation benefits if they contract
``Unfortunately, our first responders sometimes become `first
Gov. Schweiker said. ``By simply performing the duties of their job,
expose themselves to diseases such as Hepatitis C. It's about time we
to make sure these protectors of our communities and our citizens get
benefits they deserve.
Mary Kohler, a 15-year Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic who
Hepatitis C, joined Gov. Schweiker for the bill signing at the Frankford
``Philadelphia's firefighters worked tirelessly to bring our plight with
Hepatitis C to light, and Gov. Schweiker listened,'' Kohler said. ``I
like to thank Gov. Schweiker for showing a real commitment to this
Emergency responders risk their lives everyday in order to save the
others. Gov. Schweiker recognizes that bravery by signing this bill into
Despite suffering from this disease, Kohler still managed to be promoted
the rank of lieutenant -- the first woman to achieve such a rank in the
department's 265-year history.
``It takes a great deal of courage to become a paramedic,'' Gov.
said. ``Think of the courage it takes to do that while racked by the
fatigue of Hepatitis C. That's what Mary Kohler goes through every day.
the first woman to ever make lieutenant in the Philadelphia Fire
she knows about being the underdog and long-shot causes.''
Sponsored by Rep. John Perzel (R-Philadelphia), House Bill 1633 amends
Workers' Compensation Act to define Hepatitis C as an occupational
Emergency responders now will be able to collect workers' compensation
they contract Hepatitis C while on the job.
In addition to firefighters, paramedics and police officers, the
helps ambulance and rescue crews, state and county corrections
Department of Public Welfare personnel whose duties put them at risk for
exposure to the disease.
``I am pleased to say that this bill will put Pennsylvania on the
forefront,'' Gov. Schweiker said. ``We are only the fourth state to
this benefit to emergency workers and police officers who get Hepatitis
Only eight states even offer it to their firefighters.''
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease and is difficult for people to
when or how they contracted it. In some cases, people have carried it
years before receiving a proper diagnosis. It has been a particular
for Philadelphia's emergency responders, who deal with emergency
and possible exposure to the disease on a daily basis.
The legislation also allows an employment-screening program to determine
potential employee incurred the disease prior to any job-related
Guidelines for a screening program will be established by the Department
Labor and Industry.
The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously and takes effect
``I would like to thank Rep. Perzel and Sen. Mike Waugh (R-York) for
hard work and dedication on this issue,'' Gov. Schweiker said. ``I also
like to thank the General Assembly for their overwhelming support. We
that we must do whatever we can to protect our emergency responders as
go about the business of protecting Pennsylvania.''
Gov. Schweiker now has signed two bills in the past 10 days recognizing
efforts of Pennsylvania's emergency responders.
On Dec. 10, he signed legislation that designates a section of the State
Capitol grounds as ``Emergency Responder Plaza,'' in honor of
past and present law enforcement officials, firefighters and emergency
CONTACT: David La Torre, Deputy Press Secretary of the Pennsylvania
the Governor, +1-717-783-1116.