Proposed Sacramento County ‘Hiring Freeze’ Could Hamper Health Services for Residents
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, concerned about the economic recession and expected reductions in state funds, is considering a "partial hiring freeze" and other "tough measures to save money and soften the blow" of potential budget reductions next year -- a move that could hamper health services for county residents, the Sacramento Bee reports. Under the plan, proposed by county officials, county departments could no longer spend funds saved from vacant positions on equipment or temporary employees. The proposal also would require county departments to "absorb" additional costs "needed to respond to bioterrorism threats" and reduce new equipment purchases, employee travel and outside service vendors. According to County Executive Terry Schutten, the plan would "conserve cash" -- at least $1 million to $2 million this year -- and "preserve" employee jobs and services for county residents. However, the Bee reports that the proposal represents a "double-edged sword" for many county departments. The county Department of Health and Human Services, for example, uses salary savings from vacant positions to pay private doctors and nurses who provide care at health clinics when staff take vacation time or sick leave, department Director Jim Hunt said. "If we are not able to hire temporary staff, it will diminish our capacity to serve our patients," Hunt said. The plan also "drew a sharp protest" from county Sheriff Lou Blanas, who said that costs have "risen heavily" as a result of "increased calls and special training and equipment" to respond to bioterrorism. He "accused" county officials of "punishing" law enforcement and public health agencies that have faced additional costs in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The county Board of Supervisors will likely hear the budget report today (Davila, Sacramento Bee, 12/8).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.