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At UN, Talk of Printing Plant Stroke Death and Ambulance Delay, Dangers Unmitigated After One Year, Workers Say

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 -- There was a buzz both angry and sad among staff at the UN on Friday, about the death of a printing worker who had a stroke the previous night in the third basement publishing plant. According to colleagues of his, it took nearly an hour for a New York City ambulance to be allowed into to attend to him. They offered to carry him themselves for treatment, but were told that they couldn't.

   Speaking to Inner City Press on condition on anonymity -- they expressed fear of retaliation even for disclosing this -- they described another situation slightly more than a year ago, in which a printing plant worker had his fingers crushed in a machine, and again the arrival of medical services was delayed.

   They questioned why, other than during the September to October General Assembly meeting period, there is not even a nurse on duty when they work the night shift. They said it makes them question the United Nations Organization and its commitment to the basic rights of its own line workers, despite its pronouncements about the right of others.

  "Imagine," one of the dead man's colleagues told Inner City Press, "we work on 42nd Street on the island of Manhattan and it takes an hour for an ambulance to reach us."

   What's worse in this situation is that a year ago, the same problem arose, and while a journalist died of a stroke on the UN's third floor, a New York Fire Department vehicle was stopped at the UN's gate from First Avenue. When Inner City Press reported on that story, the UN Spokesperson's office pushed back, denying the time line, implying it would not happen again. Now, according to UN printing plant staff, it has happened again. Where will accountability lie?

UN's Ban Ki-moon tours printing plant, ambulance access not shown

  Last year, at the Feb. 22, 2008 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: How long did it take and what is the policy of the UN on letting emergency medical personnel on the UN property?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: First of all, there were emergency medical personnel on hand at the time. As I just mentioned, three UN security officers who are qualified EMTs performed CPR on Mr. Janitschek, and there was no sign of life at the time. A defibrillator was used to try to start his heart, to no avail, and appropriate medical protocols were followed. The person who was with Mr. Janitschek, Mr. Casella, your colleague, had immediately called the UN operator, who called security, who then called the emergency responders, including a direct call to New York hospital. The first responder was actually a fire engine truck. They were not allowed in, because they could not provide the level of care needed, compared to the trained EMTs, who were there on site already, the three UN security officers. An ambulance arrived 10 seconds later, and that ambulance and paramedics were let in directly. Like I said, all of that was to no avail, ultimately. Mr. Janitschek gave no sign of life throughout this process.

Inner City Press: First of all, who decides whether to let in or not to let in a New York City fire truck? And what is the policy of the UN in terms of this? Does it automatically allow emergency or fire personnel without [searching or blocking them]?

Associate Spokesperson: We have the protocol to call in emergency responders when there is an emergency in the building, and that protocol was followed. As far as checking vehicles that come in, that is a standard security procedure, but that did not result in any significant delay. Like I said, the ambulance and paramedics were let in directly.

The UN later added that [After the briefing, the Spokesperson’s Office confirmed that the ambulance was not stopped at the front gate at all.]

Editor's note: beyond that fact that several witnesses continue to describe the searching of the ambulance, no one has rebutted or even denied the 24 minute response time. In the UN's scripted statement at Friday's noon briefing, highlighted above, it is said that a fire truck was denied entry. A UN security officer after the briefing confirmed that when FDNY vehicles come to the UN, the policy is to not let them in unless there is / the UN is aware of a fire. There's a problem: FDNY took over EMS ambulances some time ago, and FDNY personnel are trained in the procedures which were needed that February 2008 night. So why have a policy that includes turning away official NYC emergency responders from the FDNY? Now, there's this event in March 2009. Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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