Our county is facing significant budget cuts for
the fiscal year that begins in July.
The cuts being proposed on both the
county and state level--and
looming on the federal level--could
devastate our system and leave
Contra Costa residents without the services they need.
Hello, I am Dr. William Walker, Director of
Contra Costa Health Services, and I would like to
talk you about the budget crisis.
Never in my more than 30-year career as
a public servant have I been more discouraged and
concerned than I am now about the fate of this
extraordinary public health system we have developed.
Our Board of Supervisors over the years has
provided outstanding leadership and
financial support to supplement state funds.
Now all of these achievements are in peril.
There are several reasons for the budget crisis:
the county is getting less money from
tax revenues and county officials are working on
how to deal with the shortfall related to
retiree health benefits.
In addition, state legislators just approved
one billion dollars in emergency spending cuts to
help the state budget deficit.
We also are at risk for another
$8 million in reductions if
the federal Medicaid Moratorium is not
successfully extended by Congress before May 25.
I am sorry to say that all of these cuts will
have an impact on many of our programs.
And I wish I were able to ward off some of the
things I know from experience are likely to
happen this year.
I began my career as a physician in 1974 at
a public clinic in Oakley where we used bed sheets for walls.
My intention was to eventually move on, possibly to a developing country.
I never left Contra Costa because of the
challenges and rewards I found practicing medicine here.
Through the years, both as a physician, health officer and
Director of Health Services, I've been privileged to
participate in the building of
an extraordinary health care system that
serves the residents of Contra Costa in
unique and impressive ways.
We now have one of the most
seismically safe medical centers in the East Bay.
Contra Costa Regional Medical Center is recognized as a leader in
a number of areas related to patient safety.
We've been singled out by Stanford, Harvard,
the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and others for
our achievements in quality and safety.
Our Public Health Division, over the years,
pioneered many strategies for
improving the health of the residents of
Contra Costa and it too has been recognized
nationally for its success, from tobacco ordinances to
breast cancer early interventions.
While we struggle to meet these financial challenges,
we also remain committed to serving the community,
especially those who are most vulnerable and the
ever-increasing number without health insurance.
We hope our community members will
let their elected officials know that the residents of
our County need this health system, and that reductions in
health funding will have a great impact on those most in need.
Thanks for listening.