NEW YORK – A federal probe concluded that a government program to monitor the health of federal employees at the World Trade Center disaster site in New York "accomplished little" even though city and state programs screened more than 30,000 people.
A report by the Government Accountability Office (search) found that the health-screening program conducted only about 400 exams, a small fraction of the thousands of federal employees who worked on the hazardous debris pile in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The GAO's findings were to be presented Saturday at a special congressional hearing in New York City, but the hearing was postponed. The agency is expected to release the findings Monday; The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report on Saturday.
The federal worker screening program established by the Health and Human Services Department (search) "has accomplished little, completing screenings of less than 400 of the thousands of federal responders," the GAO determined.
The study was requested by Rep. Christopher Shays (search), R-Conn., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (search), D-Manhattan, who have for years complained that the federal government has not shown the necessary attention to possible long-term health problems from work at ground zero.
It has been known for some time that the government cut short the federal worker screening program, but the GAO report suggests that part of the reason for that may have been uncertainty about what to do with the results.
"Officials told us they were concerned about continuing to provide screening examinations without the ability to provide participants with additional needed services," the report stated.
Shays, who chairs a government reform subcommittee, said the findings should lead to better health monitoring for victims of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.