San Francisco Chronicle Examines Problems in Los Angeles County Health System
The San Francisco Chronicle today examines Clinica Para Las Americas, a Los Angeles County clinic closed in a series of "sudden, sharp budget cuts that have left the clinic's patients with few alternatives" (Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6). The county Board of Supervisors in August voted unanimously to close 11 of the county's 18 public health clinics, close four school-based health centers and end inpatient services at High Desert Hospital in Lancaster as part of a plan to help reduce an estimated $750 million budget deficit in the county health system (California Healthline, 8/21). The closures and reductions in services will likely force many uninsured county residents to visit emergency rooms for care, county officials said. Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, director and chief medical officer for the Los Angeles Department of Health Services, said, "Part of what we're doing (with the cuts) is just a Band-Aid. It's not fundamentally fixing the problem, but we have to do something quickly." He added, "The magnitude of the uninsured problem here is just staggering. Until you get here and realize you have something like two and a half million uninsured, you can't appreciate how big it is." According to the Chronicle, the problems in Los Angeles County may provide a "stark glimpse into the future of public health care" for the six million uninsured residents statewide. Budget "pressures, a weak economy and a growing immigrant population" will likely increase that number in the next few years, "putting more pressure" on the state's health system, the Chronicle reports. Dr. Diana Bonta, director of the Department of Health Services, said, "You're going to be seeing similar types of concerns in the rest of the state" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6).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.