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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > CCHS Director Discusses Budget Impacts on Health Services

CCHS Director Discusses Budget Impacts on Health Services

February 10, 2009

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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As the economy worsens and more layoffs are announced every day, more and more people are finding themselves without health insurance. Many of you are turning to us—the county health system—for care.

Hello, I am Dr. William Walker, the director of Contra Costa Health Services here to talk to you about the situation we're facing.

For many years, our County health department has struggled with how to serve Contra Costa residents most effectively with what never seems to be enough resources.

A number of years ago when our patients complained about the very long waits in our Health Centers, we redesigned our appointment process and dramatically reduced the waits.

I wish I could tell you we can do that now—when our Medical Center, eight health centers and programs, like the WIC nutritional program for women, infants and children—are being strained to the breaking point.

We know that there are long waits on the phone for those of you who find yourself or your family members needing health care after having lost your regular health provider. We know it's hard to get an appointment in our system. And we know people— our long-time patients and newcomers—are frustrated that they have to wait for long periods of time on the phone to talk to someone to get an appointment, and then to discover they may not be able to get an appointment as soon as they would like or in the location they prefer.

We're trying to help address the problem by taking a look at how to best use our appointment locations and where we might be able to create extra slots in our Health Centers and our mobile health clinics. We have already identified additional appointment slots for both children and adults and we are still working on more.

I wish I could say that these efforts will be enough and the long waits will disappear. The fact is that even more people will probably be calling to get health care from us in the coming months at a time when we are facing significant budget cuts. The federal Economic Stimulus plan may provide some relief, but the state budget may require more cuts.

Our mission is to care for and improve the health of all people in Contra Costa County with special attention to those who are most vulnerable to health problems. We are doing our best during these trying times to accomplish that mission. As a safety net for those growing numbers of Contra Costa residents who need our help, we are working hard to keep that net from unraveling completely.

Thank you for listening.

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