Paramedics with Hepatitis Sit for Help

Mayor Walks Around Sit-In

PHILADELPHIA--Paramedics around the country are constantly exposed to deadly diseases. However, when Lt. Mary Kohler was diagnosed with hepatitis C in January, the city of Philadelphia looked the other way.

Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal bloodborne liver virus. The city refuses to recognize the disease as a work-related injury. Kohler believes she contracted the virus on the job in 1991-1992. She is an 11-year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Kohler began her sit-in in front of the mayor's office Tuesday. She vows to stay until a contract to help firefighters and paramedics is enacted. Mayor John F. Street has walked past her, without comment. Street said he has committed to funding to treat 200 emergency care workers at a cost of $3 million. However, the city is not prepared for the $4.8 million arbitrators want during a two years period to test employees for hepatitis.

Kohler will be taken off payroll Monday when she runs out of sick time. She suffers from joint pain, chronic fatigue and tremors and has been joined in the mayor's hallway by other firefighters who are also suffering from the disease.

Information from the LA Times