San Francisco Health Commission Approves Budget Plan To Reduce Funding for Department of Public Health
The San Francisco Health Commission on Tuesday approved a budget plan that will reduce funding for the San Francisco Department of Public Health by $15.5 million over the next 18 months, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The budget cuts would reduce funding for services to people with mental illnesses and support for residents with HIV and result in layoffs for some nurses who visit patients with chronic illnesses, according to the Chronicle (Herel, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10).
Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) last week proposed the budget plan in response to voters' rejection of two tax measures on the Nov. 2 ballot -- supported by Newsom -- that would have raised funds to maintain some services. The tax increases proposed by Measures J and K would have raised $25 million through the end of fiscal year 2005 and $80 million in subsequent fiscal years.
Newsom's plan would save the city an estimated $97 million over the next 18 months. City law requires the budget to be balanced, and the mayor has the authority to enact mid-year funding reductions unilaterally. Even if Newsom's plan is implemented in its entirety, San Francisco officials expect to begin the next fiscal year with a $135 million budget deficit (California Healthline, 11/5).
In passing the budget plan, the commission included resolutions that asked Newsom to restore about $60,000 in funding for the Shanti Lifelines case management program for residents with breast cancer and restore funding for HIV support services. According to the Chronicle, about 25% of the funding reductions involve HIV support services.
Nearly 200 people attended the health commission meeting.
DPH Director Mitch Katz said the commission reduced funding for support services to preserve core services. Katz said, "It's all very grim," adding, "We've done our best, but we realize this is not a list to be proud of."
At a meeting to discuss the budget plan, some opponents of the funding reductions said that core services will be affected by the cuts to support services, such as programs to provide translation services or drive patients to medical appointments. Some people who spoke at the meeting said the budget cuts would increase city costs in other areas, including emergency department fees.
Dr. Valerie Ng, who represented San Francisco General Hospital at the meeting, said a provision in the plan that would reduce the city's contract with the University of California-San Francisco by $1.2 million would cause increased wait times for patients and result in the elimination of some services, the Chronicle reports.
Newsom, who did not attend the meeting, said, "I've always said, if you've got a better idea, I'm all ears" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10).