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Cuts to Hit Hardest at 7 Health Clinics Slated for Closure : County budget: Parks, pools and libraries spared temporarily, although hours, staffs and programs are being scaled back.

August 05, 1993|TINA GRIEGO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH AREA — The budget adopted last week by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors allows the five Southeast parks and swimming pools threatened with closure to stay open. And the 12 county library branches that were supposed to be boarded up next month won't be.

But don't expect dancing in the streets.

Seven county-run clinics, including the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, are scheduled to close Sept. 1. While the parks were saved, it is not clear how many recreation programs will survive. And although the 12 libraries will remain open, it will be only for two days a week and only until Jan. 31 unless the state Legislature helps. In the meantime, library staff members may be laid off, and summer reading, literacy and other programs are likely to be scaled back.

"I guess you could say my reaction is bittersweet," said Sarah Fang, manager of the Bell library that was among those scheduled to be closed this month. "It's good for the community. It's better than nothing."

The same sentiment was echoed by some parks and recreation employees who feared park closures and layoffs. Sheila Ortega, a parks department spokeswoman, said department heads are still assessing the effects of the budget, but the situation is not as bad as it could have been.

The same cannot be said for area health clinics and their patients. In addition to the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, the Bell Gardens, Compton Dollarhide, Hawaiian Gardens, Norwalk, Paramount and Pico Rivera clinics are scheduled to be shut down next month.

With the closures, thousands of patients, most of whom are poor and uninsured, will be left without convenient and free health care.

William Fujioka, chief executive officer of the Long Beach center, said that most Long Beach patients will probably travel to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Carson, an 11-mile, 1 1/2-hour bus ride from Long Beach but the closest major county hospital. Once there, they could face emergency room waits of nine hours or more. Those who delay getting help may flood local private hospitals, Fujioka said.

The Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center averages 4,400 patient visits a month and has the only county-run HIV clinic in south Los Angeles County. All those patients, he said, will have to go somewhere.

"I don't think the public realizes that impact of the closures," Fujioka said. "It will be positively outrageous."

In the waiting room of the Long Beach center, Julie Arcularius said she is 61 years old, has no insurance, no family and once waited 13 hours in the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center emergency room for someone to see her about chronic abdominal pains.

"They are so busy taking care of the people who have been shot and stabbed, they don't have any time for us," she said vehemently. "So, I come over here. I've been coming here for the last four years, and I don't have to wait too long and I'm treated nice."

Arcularius, of Willowbrook, said she could not believe the center would be closed. Several health care workers at the center shared her opinion.

"Maybe we are just in denial, but it just seems inconceivable to me as a nurse that this can happen," said Dale Lieberfarb, manager of the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center's HIV clinic and a public health nurse. "What is going to happen to all these people?"

Social worker Matt Harwood said his clients are anxious and upset, and there is little he can say to reassure them.

"I guess we are just numb," Harwood said. "Can they really do something as ludicrous as this and put so many people in jeopardy?"

Lieberfarb and Harwood said they are counting on the Legislature to save the day.

County officials are preparing legislation that would free up about $72 million for the clinics. Don Petite, controller for the Department of Health Services, said that county officials want the legislation ready when the Legislature reconvenes Aug. 16. But he said, "this is not a sure thing."

Librarians also are counting on the state. They are planning to lobby the Assembly to approve a bill that would create a library assessment district. The bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, would ask property owners in each region with a county library to pay $20 to $50 a year to keep the libraries open.

Sue Cowen, spokeswoman for the county library system, said without the assessment district, all the libraries that have been reopened temporarily will be closed permanently Jan. 31.

County Budget Cuts

The Los Angeles County budget contains bittersweet news for the Southeast area. Seven health clinics are scheduled to be shut down Sept. 1. Recreation programs are likely to be cut. And a dozen libraries will be open only two days a week. These are the clinics and libraries that will be affected:

Health Clinics

Bell Gardens, 6912 Ajax Ave.

Compton Dollarhide, 1108 N. Oleander Ave.

Hawaiian Gardens, 22310 Wardham St.

Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, 1333 Chestnut Ave.

Norwalk, 12360 E. Firestone Blvd.

Paramount, 15312 Paramount Blvd.

Pico Rivera, 633 S. Passons St.

Libraries *

Alondra, 11949 E. Alondra Blvd., Norwalk

Artesia, 18722 S. Clarkdale Ave.

Bell, 4411 E. Gage Ave.

Chet Holifield, 1060 S. Greenwood Ave., Montebello

George Nye Jr., 6600 Del Amo Blvd., Lakewood

Hawaiian Gardens, 12100 E. Carson St.

Hollydale, 12000 S. Garfield Ave., South Gate

Maywood, 4323 E. Slauson Ave.

Paramount, 16254 Colorado Ave.

Rivera, 9001 Mines Ave., Pico Rivera

South Whittier, 14433 Leffingwell Road, Whittier

Willowbrook, 11838 Wilmington Ave., Los Angeles

*These libraries are tentatively scheduled to open two days a week beginning Aug. 16. Hours have not been determined.

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