Potential Impact of Proposed Budget Cuts to San Francisco Health Services Examined
The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday looked at the potential effects of Mayor Gavin Newsom's (D) proposed budget cuts for health services (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14). Newsom this month included the cuts as part of his $5 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2004-2005, which also calls for the elimination of some jobs and consolidation of departments. Newsom has proposed reducing public health staff at primary care clinics, closing the dialysis unit at San Francisco General Hospital and reducing supportive services for people with HIV. Most of the eliminated staff positions at the city Department of Public Health would be administrative and middle-management positions (California Healthline, 6/2).
Newsom and DPH Director Dr. Mitch Katz said the proposed funding cuts to public health centers would have little impact on patient care because the plan shifts resources to improve efficiency in the health care system. Katz said, "People may have to go to other sites for their care. But I believe we'll be able to serve the same number of people in our system." Under the plan, staffing would be shifted so there would typically be one physician for every two exam rooms at each health center, which Katz said is the industry standard. The plan also would adjust nursing and support staff levels accordingly, the Chronicle reports. As a result, the Maxine Hall Health Center in the Western Addition of San Francisco and the Southeast Health Center in Bayview would gain staff, and staffing levels would be reduced at Tom Waddell Health Center and Castro-Mission Health Center.
Critics say the funding cuts would affect the San Francisco health care system, which they say is "already overtaxed," the Chronicle reports. Newsom said the funding cuts are necessary because of the city's projected $307 million budget deficit. He said, "You're going to start hearing from a lot of people that change isn't possible, that the world will fall apart if we try something different. But I think we can do things differently, and more efficiently and effectively." However, he said that he would consider changing his mind if compelling arguments are made not to reduce funding for public health programs (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14). Last week, Newsom eliminated plans to reduce by 50% funding for satellite public health clinics in his FY 2004-2005 budget proposal, restoring $287,000 in funding to the clinics (California Healthline, 6/11). The proposed budget is undergoing two months of public debate and likely will be revised by the county Board of Supervisors (California Healthline, 6/2).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.