"It was a good plan. It would have been an excellent model for any city. . . ." said Carolyn Needleman, a member of the task force and a professor in the occupational and environmental health program at Bryn Mawr College. "It was far-reaching and innovative, but as far as I know it was never implemented."
Dr. Eddy A. Bresnitz of the Medical College of Pennsylvania served as the task force's chairman. Bresnitz said last week that Shapiro never even acknowledged the report.
"I remember we submitted it and never got an acknowledgement from Stu Shapiro that he received it," Bresnitz recalled. ". . . I thought it was a good piece of work. I'm sorry they didn't do anything with it."
Shapiro could not be reached for comment.
A 2 1/2-year, nearly completed asbestos survey of city-owned buildings has so far shown that 164 of 401 buildings - 40 percent - are contaminated with asbestos. Six percent of the more than 3,000 sites inspected in those buildings, the study shows, are so seriously contaminated that a consultant has recommended that only people in protective clothing be allowed near those sites.
Among the contaminated sites are police and fire stations, libraries, youth recreation centers and health clinics. One city report indicated that of about 30,000 workers, 7,600 may have been exposed because of their jobs.
While the 1985 study does not estimate the total cost of a screening program for city workers, it does give guidelines for the costs of some tests. Both Needleman and Bresnitz added last week that they expected such a medical program to be "expensive."
But Bresnitz recalled that the task force, aware of the high startup costs for screening and of the city's plan to begin an asbestos survey of its buildings, still recommended that "the city shouldn't wait until it finished its survey to implement this program."
Indeed, the task force's report emphasized that the city should view worker education, in particular, "as its highest priority."
To date, neither the screening nor education program has been implemented.
But that was not the end of the task force's report, according to city documents. Sometime in mid-1986 it was handed over to a private firm, Philadelphia Health Management Corp. (PHMC), and in October of that year PHMC was given a $100,000 city contract to evaluate the task force plan and begin implementing it.
The contract provided for PHMC to spend about $44,000 on salaries; more than $11,000 on fringe benefits; $20,000 on administrative costs, and $14,522 on "non-staff costs." An additional $10,000 was budgeted for "temporary consultants" but PHMC's executive director, Richard Cohen, said last week that the $10,000 ultimately was used for secretarial and legal work.
Last week, city officials - including Health Commissioner Maurice C. Clifford - were initially unclear about what PHMC had accomplished under its contract, which ran from October 1986 through June 1987. Clifford said he thought the contract was for developing an asbestos exposure questionnaire, and he seemed unaware that Shapiro's task force had already formulated such a document and included it in the report.
"I really don't know exactly where we are on that situation," Clifford said of the asbestos questionnaire.
"The fact of the matter is," he added, "I don't believe the Health Department has had the resources to institute the program."
The Health Department's current liaison on the program, Frank O'Donnell, said he was not the liaison during PHMC's initial involvement in the project. O'Donnell said a former deputy health commissioner, Pat Burks, worked on the project.
Reached at home, Burks declined to discuss the project.
Asked if he knew of any results from the 1986-87 PHMC contract, O'Donnell at first said, "Personally, no." But on Friday he produced a 20-page report
from PHMC, adding that he did recall reviewing the report in the summer of 1987.
In its introduction, the report said: "Initially, the project for (fiscal year) 1987 was expected to implement a full screening program for city employees. As the program implementation progressed, however, it became clear that the city was not able to support the project at expected levels of funding. By the fall of 1986, PHMC was told by the city to develop a limited workplan which reduced the scope of the program to planning and preparation."
The report then went on to discuss many of the topics covered in the original task force report of March 1985.
According to O'Donnell, PHMC now stands to receive an additional $270,000 for more planning and preparation on the asbestos screening project - work scheduled to have been completed in fiscal 1988, which will end June 30. O'Donnell said that so far no results from that contract have been submitted to the city, but money for the work will be paid retroactively if PHMC satisifies the contract demands.
"They have not delivered anything to me," O'Donnell said.
"I think that we have worked with the city to try to implement all the things that the city has asked for," Cohen said.
The report O'Donnell produced Friday suggested that what the city asked for was not always clear.
"Initially," the report said, "it was decided to begin a small scale screening program . . . in response to a sudden heightening of employee concern over specific asbestos exposure. This did not occur.
". . . Until May 1987, there was no indication from the city that the program would be continued through the next fiscal year. As of the end of June 1987 there is no signed contract for next fiscal year. Without a continued commitment to the program, it would not be responsible to begin to identify possible cases of exposure without the likelihood of continued screening or follow-up."
O'Donnell said last week that the fiscal 1988 contract remains unsigned.
Part of the problem, he explained, was that PHMC proposed a far more expensive program than the city could afford for fiscal 1988. Originally, he said, PHMC's plan called for a budget of $587,000. It also called for PHMC to develop - and own - a computer system to record medical information on city workers potentially exposed to asbestos.
O'Donnell said he had problems with that plan because PHMC proposed owning the computer system, independent of the city.
"It seemed to me," he said, "the city was guaranteeing that contract for the next 20 years. And it was a rather expensive one at that."
If PHMC develops computer software, an asbestos hotline and an asbestos education program as called for in the fiscal 1988 contract, O'Donnell said, the firm stands to win another contract under the 1989 city budget, expected to be approved by the end of this month. More than $500,000 is contained in that budget for an asbestos screening program, O'Donnell said, and PHMC is the primary candidate.
When asked about the likelihood of PHMC receiving a contract for fiscal 1989 and continuing as the screening program's developer, O'Donnell responded, ''I want to crawl before I walk."