The county’s health district is expected to see at least $136,000 in reductions for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but that figure is expected to grow sharply once the state passes its own budget and hands down additional operating costs to offset its multi-billion-dollar deficit.
Most of the initial cuts, which leave the health district with an $18.1 million budget, come from eliminating two full-time employee vacancies, as well as some travel expense accounts and copying costs.
But there is nearly $22,000 in savings from a proposed 72 percent reduction in the hourly public health nurse pool. Officials said maternity health and child protective services could be negatively impacted as a result, with a likely increase in hospital emergency medical care for neglected and abused children.
The persistent challenges faced by health officials are evident in other budget scenarios, which calculate 10- and 25-percent cuts and threaten certain social safety nets.
Outsourcing services such as family planning, consolidating inspection and enforcement functions with other county departments and eliminating home nursing care programs are possible future outcomes, according to interim health officer Mary-Ann Brown.
Management and administrative “reorganization” — code for “layoffs” — and more concessions from employee unions also might be necessary.
Brown told county commissioners on Monday that she is concerned about increased morbidity and mortality rates as a result of budget cuts. She also is worried that possible program extinctions, particularly those that provide preventive care, could have untold consequences.
Slashing funds for preventive care increases health care costs in the long run, Brown said.
“Public health is all about prevention,” Brown said.
Perhaps even more worrisome to officials is the prospect that state government might pile an additional $25 million onto the county’s current $33.5 million deficit.
“There will be more (cuts) to come, unfortunately,” County Manager Katy Simon said.
The health district could see its own budget shrink by nearly half a million dollars as the state tries to transfer responsibility for some services, drop funding for certain programs and bill the county for others. Tuberculosis medical treatment and emergency medical care training programs are anticipated to suffer as a result.
Brown described the budget crunch facing the health district as unprecedented.
Reporter’s note: Read about proposed cuts to the Washoe County Community Development Department in Friday’s edition of the Sparks Tribune.