SAN JOAQUIN: Health Agencies May Be Separated
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors is considering separating "the environmental health division from the Health Care Services Department -- which also includes San Joaquin General Hospital, and mental-health and substance-abuse services -- and turn it into a department all its own," the Stockton Record reports. The separation would allow the environmental health staff, which is currently charged with preventing disease, more time to concentrate on non-health related tasks. The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to "direct county staff to look into the feasibility of making the separation."
The lone dissenting vote came from Supervisor Edward Simas, who said the separation may become irrelevant because the Health Care Services Department is currently restructuring. "We need to allow the process to prevail. Otherwise it's a piecemeal approach," said Simas. In January, county supervisors decided that the county should contract with a private health care company to provide services to residents. Karen Furst, San Joaquin's public health officer, also opposes the separation. She said that environmental health is closely linked to "public health efforts to control disease," so the two divisions should not be separated. Those in favor of the separation contend that it is necessary because environmental health workers are required to do many diverse tasks associated with "protecting the general well-being of residents." In addition, a separation could save the county money, according to Supervisor Dario Marenco. However, Health Care Services Director Michael Smith predicted that costs would increase if the departments are separated because administrative costs would be increased (Adamek, 2/18).