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Two Clinics Open to Treat Ground Zero Patients

Ground Zero workers and other New Yorkers who got sick from World Trade Center dust and debris now have two new places where they can seek free medical care, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday.

The clinics in Queens and in Chinatown in downtown Manhattan will allow the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center to treat up to 20,000 patients over the next five years, he said in a statement.

The city-funded program was established in 2006 at Bellevue Hospital Center in midtown Manhattan. Since then, 1,600 people have enrolled for treatment, but thousands more are believed to be affected, including downtown residents and rescue workers who responded to the disaster.

“The center’s three sites will allow us to bring comprehensive assessment and specialty treatment to the people with symptoms from WTC exposures who have not yet accessed care,” said Alan Aviles, president of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation.

The city said most of the conditions being treated now are respiratory ailments like sinus and nasal problems. Some have also reported shortness of breath, asthma and throat irritation.

In addition to respiratory conditions, some patients have experienced heartburn, indigestion, headaches, rashes and anxiety.

Also yesterday, Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta released a report based on the Fire Department’s six-year health monitoring of its retired and active members who responded on Sept. 11, 2001, and afterward.

The department’s findings were based on thousands of questionnaires and medical examinations that show more serious symptoms among those firefighters who were earliest to arrive on scene.

The report found that more than 79 percent of firefighters who were on site the morning of the attack had at least one lower respiratory ailment like a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing or chest pain.

Also, 13 new cases of sarcoidosis – a serious, lung-scarring disease – developed among FDNY members in the first year after the disaster.