Ventura County Officials Examine Impact of Estimated Budget Deficit on Health Services
Ventura County may have to reduce hours of operation and staffing levels at its 23 outpatient clinics to offset a $7.7 million deficit in the county Health Care Agency budget, the Ventura County Star reports. In a report to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Ventura County Medical Center Administrator Michael Powers said that about 62,000 county residents would go without care if the agency scales back clinic staff and hours. Such a plan also could "jam" emergency rooms at the medical center and private hospitals because low-income residents would be unable to find care elsewhere. The cuts also would impact the ability of patients who have been screened for breast and cervical cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis to schedule follow-up appointments for treatment. The county's Behavioral Health Department, which expects a $2.1 million budget shortfall, also could face potential cutbacks, Linda Shulman, the department's acting director, said. She added that efforts to address the shortfall could limit outpatient visits to 386 clients -- a 9% reduction in patient load compared with last year -- and reduce inpatient services by 1,000 patient days, meaning patients would be discharged early or not admitted at all. The Star reports that the expected impact of the budget shortfalls does not take into account the state's budget problems. County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston said the shortfalls listed by county health officials are to help prepare county officials and "give everybody an idea of how significant the changes" might be (Levin, Ventura County Star, 7/24).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.