Tahoe health agencies try to weather economic storm
March 28, 2009
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” After hearing about the Barton HealthCare System layoffs, the healthcare community is wondering how much more of the budget storm they can weather.
“I can’t even imagine,” said Delicia Spees, Family Resource Center executive director. “We’ve lost so much already and the people who are really struggling are the ones it’s really going to affect.”
Forty-three jobs were cut from Barton, including 26 full-time positions on Thursday, said Barton spokeswoman Monica Sciuto. Hospital officials did not disclose which positions were eliminated or at what facilities.
El Dorado County Board Supervisor Norma Santiago said the county does have one public nurse position open at the South Lake Tahoe office. Even though Santiago didn’t know what positions were eliminated at Barton, she said she told the health services director to contact Barton officials to let them know about the county’s open position.
Santiago said all agencies need to pool resources to make it through these economic times.
Barton isn’t the only organization suffering from budget reductions. The El Dorado County Health Services Department has made its own program and staff reductions at the South Shore.
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Changes began in April 2008 when the county had to phase out Public Health services it normally provided, but not longer had the funds to continue. The services discontinued included family planning, well child exams and women’s breast and pap exams.
The South Lake Tahoe branch still offers immunizations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and communicable disease prevention and control, which are state and federal mandates.
Mental Health began its fiscal year with 127 regular, allocated positions. That number dropped to 90 positions. About 30 percent of the eliminated positions were from South Lake Tahoe and 70 percent from Placerville.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors even combined the two departments in October, creating the Health Services Department, to streamline administrative, fiscal and contracting functions to save costs.
Many of the county’s reductions left Barton, and other nonprofit agencies in town, with an influx of patients.
Tahoe Youth and Family Services helped fill the family planning services gap by having Planned Parenthood Marmonte officials travel from Tahoe City for appointments Tuesdays and Fridays.
Since the county cut its mental and public health budgets, the Barton Community Clinic has acquired between 150 and 200 more clients per month, Sciuto said.
In February the clinic served 1,375 patients, said Sharon Bishop, Barton Community Clinic practice manager in a previous interview.
Barton plans to keep the Barton Community Clinic open the same amount of hours, maintain services and still see the same amount of patients, Sciuto said.
The clinic charges $5 to $35 on a sliding scale, depending on the income and number of family members. In recent years, the clinic has experienced annual deficits of approximately $1.2 million.
Barton plans to press ahead with hiring a psychiatrist, who will work via teleconference, to help out with the mental health community, Sciuto said. She hopes to have someone in that position by May.