Budget impasse hurting health centers

August 19, 2008 7:27:26 PM PDT
Community health centers have been hit especially hard by this budget impasse.

They are nonprofits that depend on money from the state to keep operating.

Since the clinics are no longer getting money from the state, medical centers could be forced to shut down. This is hurting the staff and also the patients.

Brookside Medical Center in San Pablo and its other clinic in Richmond have not received money from the state since July 24.

They are operating thanks, in part, to the good will of their staff.

"So our staff has pretty much absorbed most of the cuts in terms of reducing hours, in terms of doing salary deferment, in terms of making sure we don't buy the supplies we don't need, so right now our clients are hopefully not feeling a thing," says Cheryl Johnson, Director of Brookside Medical Center in San Pablo.

Susan Taylor is a medical assistant. She's feeling the pain of having to reduce her hours.

"I'm a single mom with two kids and I had to struggle a bit, especially because the partial unemployment that I applied for didn't kick in until almost a month and half after."

The medical center in Richmond was forced to close on Fridays to save money.

At both centers, Medi-Cal finances about 50 percent of their budget -- that's about $12,000 a day they are not receiving.

Besides the action taken by the staff, both centers are surviving on a 30 day cash reserve and a $500,000 loan from the California Primary Care Association, which buys them an additional 30 days.

If lawmakers don't come up with a budget soon, the staff worries the 15,000 patients they see a year will have nowhere else to go.

"I don't think they are really looking at longer term in terms of how it is hurting people. I think it's about who is going to be right and who is going to be wrong," says Johnson.

Not only are these workers working less hours, but many of them are living them in places like Antioch and Modesto, so the cost of gasoline to, just make it to work, is hurting them enough.

If you want to contact your state senator or assembly member about the budget hold-up, click here.


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