California: Health Cuts Rejected
September 25, 2008
Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a budget proposal that included closing an AIDS clinic, citing the burden it would cause to other agencies. The cuts, proposed by county Public Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno, were suggested as a way to help slash $2 million from the county's Department of Public Health budget.
Health services must be cut to offset the $3.6 million gap in state vehicle license and sales tax revenues that pay for them. The weak economy has hit almost every county department, as residents have stopped buying new cars and held back on shopping. Moreno's plan called for a $367,000 savings by closing a specialty clinic that offers testing and treatment for STDs and HIV.
"I hope you appreciate just how serious and significant the [STD] problem is here in the valley," said Thomas Cole, the health officer for Madera County, Fresno County's northern neighbor. Fresno County has the state's highest chlamydia rate and is 30th in the nation for the STD. Gonorrhea rates are high as well.
"If this clinic is closed, many people would not have access to care at all," said Dr. Murray Barry, who runs the downtown clinic. The unemployed and uninsured depend on it, said Barry, noting the clinic treats about 5,000 patients a year.
Dr. Simon Paul, head of the Special Services HIV Center at Community Regional Medical Center, said facilities like his could not provide efficient care for the 70 AIDS patients now treated by the county, he said.
The supervisors' meeting was well-attended by health advocates and county workers, and many applauded the decision to reject Moreno's proposal. Supervisors ordered Moreno and Interim County Administrative Officer John Navarrette to propose alternate cuts. Navarrette said a new proposal should be ready for supervisors to review by Oct. 7.
09.24.2008; Barbara Anderson
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.