Advocates Call for More Funding For San Francisco Health Department
With the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Finance Committee set today to make its "final revisions" to Mayor Willie Brown's (D) proposed $5.2 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, health advocates are pushing for boosts in funding for public health programs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The proposed budget for the San Francisco Department of Public Health stands "just shy of $1 billion," a $77 million increase over the current fiscal year and the largest allocation for the department ever. The "bulk of the new money," however, is "earmarked for capital improvement projects," and advocates say that "the extra money isn't enough to make sure that patients get the best care" and believe that $20 million to $25 million in additional funding is necessary to alleviate the problems at San Francisco General Hospital and the city's community clinics. Some advocates have "accused health department officials of making service cuts without properly notifying the public" -- a violation of state law -- and have threatened to sue the city to ensure that public hearings on the matter are held. However, Mitch Katz, head of the department, said that "advocates are defining service cuts as the Health Department's plan to keep vacant positions unfilled," a "histori[c]" practice at the department. Katz "concurred" that staffing is "stretched thin" and that "more could be done" at the department, but noted that it will receive both the largest amount of funding and the greatest increase of any city department. In addition, the Chronicle reports that the department will likely receive an extra $5 million in "previously unanticipated federal funds" that will go toward increasing doctors' salaries at San Francisco General and a cost-of-living increase for not-for-profit agencies that contract with the department. The Board of Supervisors will hear the Finance Committee's proposal on July 16, and a vote is scheduled for July 23 (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.