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Health Clinics Get Reprieve From Ventura Supervisors

July 22, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Six public health clinics that serve 30,000 patients a year in Ventura County will remain open for at least six months, despite sweeping cutbacks in state and federal health subsidies that threatened to force their closure.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors came up with $1.9 million more Monday to fund health services. The board voted unanimously to appropriate $900,000 from the county contingency fund to maintain the outpatient facilities, situated in Simi Valley, Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura. Supervisors also earmarked $1 million for indirect costs incurred by Ventura County Medical Center to keep the clinics running, such as housekeeping and malpractice insurance expenses.

The board's decision to fund the clinics came after a state-mandated public hearing July 16 on proposed cuts in services to reduce the county's $10-million health-care deficit. The county still plans to reduce beds at the Ventura County Medical Center, eliminate mental health services for 500 to 800 patients and lay off about 285 workers, Lacey said.

"We're just thrilled," said Dr. Joane G. Baumen, director of the West Ventura Family Care Clinic, which serves about 6,000 patients annually. "One of our major goals now is to revamp our billing system so we'll be able to keep ourselves funded."

About $171,000 of the $1.9 million appropriated to keep the clinics operating will come from leftover federal revenue-sharing funds, Supervisor Susan K. Lacey said. The rest will come from a program started this summer by Ventura County municipal judges under which fines imposed on drunk drivers will be collected by the county's Probation Department and turned over to the county, Lacey said.

County, Cities Shared Fines

Before July 1, people convicted of drunk driving were not put on probation, and fines were split between the county and its cities.

The county also voted Monday to study ways to run the clinics "in a more cost-effective, businesslike manner," Lacey said. The Ventura County Health Care Agency was criticized earlier this month by a county grand jury, which recommended an immediate reorganization because of a series of financial mistakes described as gross mismanagement.

Those mistakes aggravated problems caused by shrinking federal and state subsidies, county officials said. More than half of California's 58 counties have had to chop at least $1 million from their health programs. Ventura is third-hardest hit, behind depressed Shasta and Yolo counties, according to Carol Emmott, executive director of the California Assn. of Public Hospitals.

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