Department of Finance Releases Letter Detailing State Personnel Cuts
The Department of Finance on Monday made public a letter to the Legislature that details where it plans to eliminate more than 16,000 positions, including jobs at the Medical Board of California and the Department of Mental Health, the Sacramento Bee reports. The staff cuts -- which will take place through layoffs, eliminating vacant positions and canceling contracts for temporary staffing -- are required by the budget Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed last summer as part of a provision to reduce state operational costs by $1.1 billion. The Bee reports that the medical board, which investigates complaints against doctors, will lose 29 positions -- including 23 in enforcement -- of its total staff of about 280. In an interview with the Bee, medical board spokesperson Candis Cohen said, "Our first focus has been to reassign our workload, to assure that our other strategic priorities are addressed first," adding, "Obviously, something has to give." Cohen said that the reassigned workload will prioritize complaints against doctors involving death, serious physical injury, substance abuse or sexual misconduct. As a result, investigations into complaints involving improper advertising, Internet prescriptions or failure to provide medical records will take longer to complete, according to Cohen. In addition, 288 positions, many in state hospitals, will be eliminated at DMH, the Bee reports. John Rodriguez, deputy director for long-term care services at DMH, said that many of the eliminated positions were already vacant and that the department had stopped trying to fill them because of problems recruiting workers. According to the Bee, Rodriguez said that state hospitals have taken other steps to control costs, including minimizing the need for restraint and seclusion of patients, which requires one-on-one supervision; encouraging the use of lower-cost drugs; and reducing travel costs by using videoconferencing for patient court appearances (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 11/5).
The funds for the medical board and other boards that oversee professions should be unfrozen because funding for such boards is paid by professionals that they license and does not come from the general fund, a Sacramento Bee editorial states. According to the editorial, the funds are frozen because legislators and the governor "took a sledgehammer approach to the budget problem when a scalpel was in order." The editorial states that because the licensing fees permanently cannot be used for any other purpose, there is "no long-term gain by freezing some funds that would normally flow to the California Medical Board to do its job." The Legislature should "free up the funds for these boards as much as possible" when it reconvenes this month, the editorial states, adding, "These boards need full access to their funds to do their jobs" (Sacramento Bee, 11/5).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.