Los Angeles County Health Officials Plans to Reduce Deficit Include Closing Clinics, School-Based Programs
Faced with a projected $800 million deficit by 2005, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials will recommend closing 11 health clinics, eliminating school-based medical programs and converting Lancaster-based High Desert Hospital to an outpatient clinic, the Los Angeles Times reports. The proposed changes, which would be the deepest cuts to the department's facilities in seven years, are expected to be considered by the county Board of Supervisors on June 26 (Riccardi/Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). Under the plan, High Desert Hospital, a 75-bed facility that offers free or nearly free health care to the 25% of area residents without health insurance, would stop providing inpatient services and would operate as an ambulatory care clinic. The change would save about $13.5 million annually, according to county health officials (Fausset, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). In addition, the county would close 11 of the 18 health clinics it operates and six clinics in the school system. The department also would reduce its contracts with private health clinics by 25%. In all, the changes are expected to save the county $158 million by next year, according to county Health Director Thomas Garthwaite. But the proposed changes "may represent just the beginning of a dramatic reduction and restructuring" that could result if the health department does not receive additional aid from the federal government, the Times reports (Riccardi/Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 6/18). The county health department has been struggling financially for more than a decade. In 1995, the federal government provided the county with a $1 billion bailout, but that aid will start being phased out next year (California Healthline, 5/2). If the federal government does not provide another bailout, county health officials have outlined "more severe cuts" that could come in October. The additional restructuring could include closing inpatient facilities at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Olive View, privatizing Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center and closing almost 100 private outpatient clinics. Those changes would save the county an estimated $259 million, Garthwaite said (Riccardi/Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 6/18).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.