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EAST LOS ANGELES : County Ordered to Keep Clinic Open

April 18, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

A Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the county to keep open a health screening clinic for the elderly.

The East Los Angeles Health Task Force has operated for 17 years at Centro Maravilla, 4716 E. Brooklyn Ave. Two weeks ago, county officials evicted staff members and changed the office locks.

The county wanted to move the clinic, which offers medical care for senior citizens, into smaller quarters at the center because three other organizations want to move in, said Lynn Bayer, assistant director of the county's Department of Community and Senior Citizens Services. The department, in addition to providing free space at the center, disperses $150,000 in federal funds annually to the clinic.

"We want the service there, we just want it in a reduced space," Bayer said. "Our service centers are designed to change with the needs of the community and we have the (other) agencies that want to come in. We believe we have the space available for all of them."

The other organizations wanting to move in are the Asthma Control and Treatment for Children program run by the UCLA School of Nursing, the Los Angeles Youth Conservation Corps and a job-training program, Bayer said. Task Force attorney Guy Lochhead said the clinic hopes to receive a permanent injunction against the county at an April 29 hearing. He protested the county's move to evict the clinic workers and said the county had not taken legal steps to do so.

"There was a changing of the locks and two sheriff's deputies came in and threatened them with arrest without any court orders or any due process," he said.

The clinic sued and received an injunction from Judge Robert O'Brien, which allowed workers to move back in last week, Lochhead said. The staff has rescheduled patient appointments that had been missed due to the closure.

"They are working hard because the office doors were closed four days," said executive director Susan Arellano. "We're trying to get back our patients. Over 70% are elderly patients. It just doesn't make sense. This put stress on our seniors."

The clinic and the county have been negotiating since last July over the office space. A two-year contract is up in June and a new contract will likely force the change in office space from the current 3,000-square-feet to half that, Bayer said.

The clinic also offers screening for tuberculosis, hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases, mental health evaluations and HIV counseling. The task force operates five other clinics, with one-third of their funding provided by the county. The state Department of Health Services funds the remainder.

"What I'm really concerned with is they do this to nonprofit organizations all the time," Arellano said. "Most organizations would have closed up like a snail."

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