CLINICAL LABS: State Restores Oversight Funds
In response to a furor over proposed staff cutbacks to the state's laboratory watchdog agency, the Wilson administration yesterday "backed down" and announced there were enough funds to maintain the department as is. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the "Senate budget committee was airing a report by legislative analyst Elizabeth Hill that criticized the health department for halfhearted attempts to find money for the inspection service." Plans were also being implemented to cut the number of inspectors from 20 to 16, although the agency had asked for an increase to 30. "But yesterday, just as the budget subcommittee ... was preparing to vote in favor of adding extra money to next year's health department budget, officials disclosed that the money had been found," the Chronicle reports. Furthermore, "the health department said there was enough money to keep the four inspectors, and that more federal money for expanded inspections may be available by year's end." Mike Genest, assistant deputy director for Prevention Service, said, "We looked at the report, and found we did have enough money to fund these positions."
"This is extremely pleasing that the people we worked so hard to recruit, train and retain will still be there," said Michael Volz, former director of the state public health laboratory. Many witnesses during the Senate hearing testified to the importance of the agency, "which stands at a pivotal point in the health care system," as "[a]n estimated 80% of all medical procedures are based on the results of laboratory tests." Michael French, a lab scientist at UCSD said, "We've always been the model for the rest of the country" (Russell, 5/5).