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MTA to expand sleep apnea program systemwide

The agency's sleep apnea screening program will expand to 20,000 employees, including subway operators.
Photo – Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) proposal to expand its sleep apnea program systemwide is expected to gain board approval this week.

The program, which previously screened only MTA Metro-North Railroad locomotive engineers, would expand to MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train engineers and conductors, as well as MTA New York City Transit subway operators and conductors and bus drivers.

Pending the board's approval, the program will provide screenings for 20,000 employees, agency officials said in a news release.

The agency's board is "widely anticipated" to give final approval for the program at its meeting tomorrow, said spokesman Aaron Donovan, adding that the screenings could begin at some point this year. The agency will issue contracts to four separate firms to administer the screenings.

MTA would become the first public transit agency in the United States to systematically screen employees for obstructive sleep apnea and offer priority treatment, according to the agency's release.

Employees deemed at risk for the sleep disorder at an initial screening will be referred for further testing and potential diagnosis and treatment. This includes a take-home overnight sleep test administered by a medical firm specializing in sleep disorders.

Sleep apnea is a medical disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while a person is sleeping. This results in insufficient sleep and can cause sufferers to lose alertness and fall asleep involuntarily.

The engineer of the Metro-North train involved in a deadly derailment in late 2013 was later diagnosed with the disorder.

"With this proposal, we are not just working to implement industry best practices; the MTA is defining best practices," said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast.

MTA announced plans to expand the sleep apnea program in April 2016.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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