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The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), based in Sarnia, is in financial straits. Over the years, the agency has helped thousands of people dealing with occupational and work-related illness and has developed a reputation for breaking new ground in the fight against occupational disease.
Local officials note that unless additional funding is made available, it will be impossible to meet the needs of a community with one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in Canada.
“The situation we’re facing right now is that a lot of workers need our help, and it’s currently beyond our resources to help everyone,” said managing director Alec Farquhar.
Opening in 1999, the clinic documented one of the largest incidences of asbestos-related disease anywhere in Canada, filing hundreds of cases to the province’s compensation board and diagnosing many more with asbestos markers in their lungs.
Sarnia Mayor Mark Bradley, whose father was instrumental in establishing the OHCOW in Sarnia, noted that “The sad legacy of industrial disease in this community had been ignored in many quarters until the local labour movement, along with OHCOW, made efforts to try and assist thousands of workers in Sarnia and area in dealing with severe work related disease issues.”
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