CHC wants county to honor health care pact
June 2, 2011
The head of the local Community Health Centers (CHC) is mounting an aggressive campaign to secure adequate funding from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to maintain the “health care safety net” for low-income families and individuals.
Ron Castle, who has headed up the CHC locally since 1978 is concerned that the new county budget will once again cut CHC funding by as much as $3 million.
There are currently 17 CHC clinics through San Luis Obispo County.
According to Castle, CHC contracted with San Luis Obispo County in 2004 to provide medical care for more than 20,000 patients after General Hospital closed. In 2010, CHC provided 335,846 clinic visits for nearly 75,000 patients–nearly double the patient load from 2004–almost one-third of whom were uninsured patients.
Meanwhile Jeff Hamm, head of the county Public Health Agency has cut back funding for CHC by nearly 50 percent since the original 2004 agreement. Castle says there is currently a $3 million shortfall in his budget—he is asking county supervisors to allocate half that amount to keep the program afloat at its current level of service. Otherwise, Castle warns, as many as 6,000 low-income, uninsured residents will likely lose access to medical care.
“When the County closed General Hospital in 2003, there were assurances that access to care would be maintained,” said Kena Burke, CHC spokesperson. “It was recommended that the millions of dollars saved by not having a public hospital be put back into health care services for those in need. Instead, those funds are being re-directed into balancing the county budget.”
The supervisors are scheduled to hold budget discussions in mid-June.