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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP / Countywide

Deputies Union Rejects Measure O

September 27, 2000|DAVID KELLY

Calling Measure O selfish and unfair to the poor and indigent, the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs Assn. came out Tuesday against the tobacco initiative, which would wrest $260 million from the county and give it to eight local private hospitals.

Glen Kitzmann, president of the 1,200-member union, said Measure O would have a "profound negative impact on the availability of health care for the truly indigent in Ventura County."

Kitzmann made his comments before the Board of Supervisors, who applauded him when he finished.

The union's board of directors made the decision, Kitzmann said, because deputies often deal with crime victims who need medical care. Many of them don't have insurance, he said.

"Time and again our members have seen that the Ventura County Medical Center provides superior emergency trauma care, regardless of ability to pay," he said.

Measure O would provide no money to Ventura County Medical Center, which treats most uninsured patients, he added.

Kitzmann said the union found the arguments against Measure O far more compelling than those supporting it.

Mark Barnhill, a spokesman for Community Memorial Hospital, which is sponsoring the measure, said the union's position doesn't surprise him, given that it's made up of county employees.

He called Kitzmann "wrong and uninformed."

The deputies union is not the first county union to oppose Measure O--the Service Employee International Union is also against it. That union represents 4,500 county employees and is trying to enlist other unions to oppose the initiative.

Measure O calls for allocating the $260 million to pay off bad debts incurred by the local private hospitals for treating patients who can't pay. Community Memorial says the money would also be used for health programs for the elderly and children.

The county says it also would use the money for health care and has called Measure O an illegal grab of public funds by private business.

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