The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM-WNY) has officially opened its doors to workers suffering from work-related injuries and diseases. It is located at the Erie County Medical Center on the first floor of the main building. The Center is part of the New York State Occupational Health Clinic Network, the nation’s only state-based network of its kind. The Center’s medical staff will examine and evaluate active and retired workers suffering from a variety of work-related injuries and diseases, and it will partner with area labor unions, employers, community activist groups and other physicians in Western New York.
The Center at ECMC is headed by its Medical Director, Dr. Wajdy Hailoo, and will employ a multidisciplinary team of seven staff members. Dr. Hailoo and his staff will provide several medical treatment options to injured, ill or impaired workers who suffer from workplace hazards, such as asbestos exposure, smoke inhalation, toxic chemical exposure, falls and other dangerous workplace conditions. The Center’s mission also aims to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries by increasing awareness and health education. Services provided by the Center include: screening examinations, pre-employment and annual exams, certification exams, such as Department of Transportation (DOT) and respirator use, and other Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Health (DOH) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required exams. Workers’ compensation and disability management, expert opinion assessment, industrial hygiene and social work services will also be provided.
Dr. Wajdy Hailoo received advanced training in occupational medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he studied under Dr. Irving Selikoff, the renowned father of research in asbestos-related diseases in the United States.
The Buffalo clinic was originally established in the 1980s, when several clinics opened throughout New York State. Today, there are ten such clinics. Dr. Hailoo is not new to the Buffalo area. He first came here in the late 1980s to manage the original clinic, at that time called the Union Occupational Health Clinic, also located at ECMC. After helping to set up the local program, he was hired by the Occupational Health Program at SUNY/Stony Brook Medical School. In the years following Dr. Hailoo’s departure from the Buffalo area, the original clinic began to depart from its core mission and was eventually defunded by the State.
According to Dr. Hailoo, “The movement to reopen the Center actually began in Buffalo about two years ago. Local union leaders, community activists, industrial hygienists and physicians saw the need to reestablish this program, here in Buffalo, because of the amount of work-related injuries and diseases that still exist in this area. With the help of these same union leaders, labor activists and leaders in the Buffalo community, we applied to the State to get funding. We were approved, an advisory board was established and we were able to form the new Center.” The Center will serve all workers in the community, including residents of Tonawanda and Niagara Falls who were exposed to environmental pollution.
Even though the presence of heavy industry has declined steeply in the Buffalo area, Dr. Hailoo decided to return to Buffalo in 2014 to serve as the Center’s Medical Director because of the great need for occupationally-related medical services. “In my travels and in my practice, I have screened patients in New York City and throughout the world, including England and Italy. I have assessed a variety of worker illnesses and diseases, and even to this day, I have not seen such a prevalence of occupational-related diseases anywhere but in Buffalo. The giant steel mill is gone, but there is still a great need for a clinic like this in this community, and I am proud to be involved with the Center at ECMC,” said Dr. Hailoo.
It is the policy of The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine that medical services are provided at no cost to the worker. Workers’ Compensation, employer health funds and insurance will be billed for services provided. Priority and extra care will be given to the medically underserved and to those who are medically challenged.
Lipsitz & Ponterio partner John N. Lipsitz currently serves on the Center’s advisory board. Its additional members are comprised of representatives from the New York State Departments of Health and Labor, local union leaders, labor activists, lawyers and other community members who will help guide the Center to fulfill its mission.
The Center will also collaborate with community organizations, such as the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH), to assist with training programs, education and patient outreach. The University at Buffalo Toxicology Research Center will participate in training and research, and residents in The University at Buffalo Department of Occupational Medicine program will assist with patient treatment and medical services.
We encourage you to contact The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at ECMC to discuss your health needs and what can be done to meet those needs. The staff may be reached at 716-898-5858.