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Grand Opening of new “Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine at ECMC” to serve WNY workers

Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation today officially opened the all new Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine at ECMC.

The Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine (COEM) at ECMC is a regional health facility for Western New York work force members who have work-related health needs.  The Center is a state-funded service supported by $3 million over five years and one of several other centers within the New York State Occupational Health Network Program.  The COEM at ECMC aims to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries through increased awareness and health education, early diagnosis and treatment.

The COEM at ECMC is guided and supported by a broad-based advisory board, led by union leadership and representation from the entire Western New York community.

Erie County Medical Center was selected as the venue to deliver these services through highly qualified/trained staff with state-of-the-art equipment housed in a modern facility, and supported by the hospital-wide range of ancillary services and resources.

“The area’s Union Leadership came to us requesting support and assistance in filing the State grant,” explained Richard C. Cleland, MPA, FACHE, NHA, Chief Executive Officer, ECMC Corp.  “The diversity of services, combined with the region’s medical professionals, most from the University at Buffalo, along with the many types of patients we serve, made ECMC a perfect fit to house and support this Center.  This is a great commitment by all involved and an excellent example of collaboration.  We are pleased and proud to be part of this vitally important service for the area workforce.”

Local Labor leaders, who played a major role in creating the new Center, emphasize that the facility came about by and for all working people.

“This Center would not have happened without the involvement of Labor,” explained Richard Lipsitz, President, Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF).  “This (Center) establishes us at the center of progressive medicine.  There’s nothing like this in Western New York and it was a collaborative effort,” said Lipsitz.  “We have a great partner with ECMC at what can only be described as a Union hospital.  This is yet another example of the good that’s going on here in Western New York.  Workers need to take advantage of what this center offers.”

The program director, Dr. Wajdy L. Hailoo, is one of the well known expert physicians specialized in occupational and environmental medicine with extensive experience in managing such programs.  Dr. Hailoo is board certified in occupational/environmental medicine and is an officer of the New York Occupational and Environmental Medical Association.

Dr. Hailoo agreed to return to Buffalo to head the COEM at ECMC after leading a university program for many years and serving as the medical director for the federal program that treats 9/11 World Trade Center first responders and volunteers in New York City (Queens).

“With all the major industry that operated in the area, WNY has one of the highest rates of occupational disease and injuries and is in most need for such professional medical services,” said Dr. Hailoo.

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Dr. Hailoo directed a similar program in Buffalo to help workers exposed to occupational and environmental conditions in the workplace.

“Our focus is on the health of workers at work who suffer because of the environment they work in,” explained Hailoo.  “We’ll be able to build an informational database on the community and its workplaces—from Tonawanda Coke to Love Canal—and the diseases that come from working and living here.  We need to take the appropriate precautions and develop treatment strategies.”

Operated by a caring and highly trained staff, the COEM is an easily accessible, spacious, modern facility located on the ECMC Health Campus on the ground floor of the medical center.  It includes state-of-the-art diagnostic and testing equipment for breathing, hearing, vision, and the cardiovascular system.

The COEM at ECMC provides: screening examinations; employment and annual exams; certification for required exams such as DOT abatement work, use of personal protective equipment, and respirator use; workers compensation and disability management; expert opinion assessment; and many other OSHA- DOH- and EPA-required exams.  Education, industrial hygiene and social work services are also available.

Additionally, the COEM at ECMC provides: processing and support for worker compensation claims; focused training and education programs; industrial hygiene support for exposure assessment; social and mental health counseling and intervention; and multiple language capabilities through multinational interpreters.

ECMC offers a wide range of ancillary and support services including a referral network of specialists.

It is the policy of the COEM at ECMC that services will be provided at no cost to the worker.  Submissions for care through this service are submitted to Workers Comp, employer health funds and insurance.  Priority and extra care is provided to address needs of the medically underserved and those who are medically challenged.  Funds are also available to pay for workers who lack any source of health coverage.

The Center’s Advisory Board Members include: Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) President Richard Lipsitz; Buffalo AFL-CIO Labor Council President John Mudie; Communications Workers of America (CWA) Region One Director Deb Hayes; and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Vice President Todd Hobler.  Other representatives on the Advisory Board are from the: Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 41; Painters District Council 4; Laborers Local 210; United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9; United Steelworkers (USW) District 4; the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT); and United University Professions (UUP).

Other organizations represented on the Advisory Board include those from: Buffalo’s Labor Law Community: Collins & Collins; Dolce Panepinto; Lipsitz Green; and Lipsitz & Ponterio; and Two Community Organizations: the Western New York Clean Air Coalition and Coalition For Economic Justice; as well as a Union Employer: Tops Market’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Jack Barrett.

ECMC’s employees are represented by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME)/CSEA and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).

Information is available at:  Those workers needing to schedule appointments or requiring additional information about this service can contact the Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine at ECMC by calling 716-898-5858.

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