San Francisco Chronicle Examines Service Reductions by Northern California Health Departments
The San Francisco Chronicle recently examined the efforts of several health departments in Northern California counties and cities to trim services because of increasing medical costs, falling revenues and reduced funds for services for low-income and disabled residents. At the same time that many jurisdictions are cutting services or facilities, officials are expecting the recent economic downturn to prompt a "new wave of uninsured or underinsured patients" in public hospitals and clinics, according to the Chronicle. Some efforts to balance budgets are highlighted below:
Alameda County Medical Center's board recently voted to eliminate outpatient services at Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro and Central Health Center in Oakland. Medical center officials said about 15,000 mostly uninsured residents who now receive care at the two facilities will have to transfer to one of four other outpatient clinics.
- The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services has enacted a hiring freeze and a 3% spending reduction this fiscal year.
- The an Francisco Department of Public Health may cut about 400 positions and possibly eliminate about half the personnel in its primary care clinics to address a $350 million budget gap.
San Mateo County, for the second consecutive year, will have to use $52 million from its general fund money to finance the public medical center and clinics. Physicians also will spend less time with patients, and services will be reduced for hundreds of mental health patients.
Santa Clara County, in light of its $33 million budget shortfall, will likely lay off 230 health department employees and cut services for about 5,500 mentally ill or drug-addicted residents.
- Sonoma County will eliminate 60 public health jobs and close clinics in Guerneville, Petaluma and Cloverdale as of July 1 to close a $1.9 million budget deficit (Podger et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 5/1).