Crowd fights health care cuts 

With more than $33 million in budget cuts proposed for The City’s Department of Public Health, a crowd packed a City Hall meeting room Tuesday, spilling into the hallway to lobby for local health services and programs on the chopping block.

With The City facing a projected$233 million budget deficit for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, Mayor Gavin Newsom asked city departments to cut budgets by 8 percent, as well as identify an additional 5 percent in contingency cuts.

The Department of Public Health, which oversees everything from San Francisco General Hospital to sex worker programs, has a target budget cut of nearly $45 million, according to staff documents.

In his report to the commission, Public Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz also outlined seven proposed midyear cuts that — if they go into effect by April 15 — would save The City $8.1 million through June 30, 2009. He also proposed 24 additional cuts that would reduce service spending by $26.5 million during the next fiscal year.

The department would still need to find an additional $11.7 million to cut to make its nearly $45 million reduction, he said.

"They are the worst cuts we’ve ever had to recommend to you," Katz told the commission.

Included in Katz’s budget cut proposal for the next fiscal year is a 15 percent across-the-board reduction for funds that go to community programs and services, which would save the department $10.5 million, according to staff documents.

Other proposed cuts include $2.3 million from the closure of Clarendon Hall at Laguna Honda Hospital, $1.3 million from services for uninsured mentally ill patients, $3 million from HIV health services and $159,467 for Shape Up San Francisco, a city program that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

At the commission’s scheduled March 4 meeting, there will be a required hearing on the proposed midyear cuts, which include the closure of Buster’s Place, a 24-hour drop-in center for the homeless and the Worker’s Comp Clinic closure at San Francisco General Hospital.

The Public Health Department’s budget, along with other city departments, must still go through the budgetary process that begins inJune when the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee begins deliberations on the proposals. By the end of July, the full board adopts a final budget.

On Tuesday, Luis Barahona, the program coordinator for the Central City SRO Collaborative, which helps tenants of SRO housing, said the agency has already received notice their funding might be cut.

"You’re talking about things that are extremely vital," Barahona told The Examiner.

dsmith@examiner.com  

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