Sacramento Bee Investigates Effects of Job Cuts on Health Services
Last year's elimination of about 9,300 state jobs by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) has resulted in "less scrutiny of unscrupulous businesses, food-processing plants and nursing homes" and "wide-ranging" effects on the Department of Health Services, according to documents obtained by the Sacramento Bee. In February, the Department of Finance agreed to release documents detailing the impact of the cuts, and Schwarzenegger requested that state departments fill out new reports explaining the effects. According to the Bee, the reports show that the health department has started to limit inspections of food-processing plants to high-risk facilities only; delay medical care for needy children for up to four months; and reduce disease control efforts. Outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases are now handled "on a priority basis," an unnamed health department official said. In addition, the department has decreased the number of criminal background checks for employees of nursing homes and other facilities that care for the elderly and disabled; the backlog of investigations has increased to 2,285 this year from 1,946 last year. Health department officials said that employees of nursing homes and other such facilities are able to start their jobs before the criminal background check is complete, meaning some people with criminal histories might be caring for the elderly and disabled. The Bee reports that services "designed to protect the public from unscrupulous businesses and health practitioners" have been "dramatically slowed" as a result of the job cuts. In addition, the issuing of licenses for professionals, including nurses, is "being delayed by months," officials said, the Bee reports. To deal with the cuts, most agencies eliminated already vacant positions and reduced travel, supplies and part-time help, the Bee reports. Nicole Kasabian Evans, a spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Agency, said agency officials will be examining ways to "continue to provide essential services to our most vulnerable populations." The Bee reports that the Schwarzenegger administration is "distancing itself from the negative effects of the cuts" and has allowed some departments to restore lost positions (Bluth, Sacramento Bee, 4/2).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.