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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Contra Costa Health Services Faces Budget Cuts

Contra Costa Health Services Faces Budget Cuts

February 19, 2008

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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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.

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