Immunization and other public health programs in Los Angeles County would be devastated, possibly leading to epidemics, if proposed budget cuts are approved, a group of doctors warned Thursday.
Public health outreach programs generally immunize residents who have the least access to medical care--the uninsured, recent immigrants and non-English-speaking residents. Cutbacks could lead to outbreaks of illnesses such as influenza, measles, diphtheria or cholera spreading throughout the public, several doctors said.
"Good public health is invisible," Dr. Brian Johnston, president-elect for the Los Angeles County Medical Assn., said during a presentation at the Montebello Senior Citizens Center. "It keeps bad things from happening."
Medical officials said the county budget plan to cut nearly $22 million in public health programs would be shortsighted because the future cost of fighting rampant diseases would be far greater.
Johnston, speaking to about 150 senior citizens at the center, warned that some of them might be vulnerable if immunizations became unavailable.
"I want all of you to take a good look at the beautiful seniors here today and know that some of them are very likely going to get seriously ill and even die this winter from influenza, or its complications, which could be prevented by immunizations," he said.
Johnston and other officials said they were also concerned about the possible closing of County-USC Medical Center or other hospitals and county clinics.
Meanwhile, the county Health Crisis Task Force completed its public hearings Thursday, with members saying they hope to keep all county hospitals open, though reductions in hours and services offered are possible, they said.
The task force was formed last month by the Board of Supervisors to study alternatives to closing County-USC Medical Center, which some see as the only way to meet a $745-million health budget shortfall.