root - Posted on 31 December 1969

by Scott Clark

Late morning, on the front steps of City Hall; two groups were present to express dissatisfaction with this year’s proposed changes in the San Francisco Public Health system. They represented physical and mental health care in S.F. It was a bright, sunny San Francisco day; kind of quiet in front of City Hall.

The sheer magnitude of the problems that are currently known to exist in S.F.’s Public Health system are so extensive as to defy the intellect as well as the imagination. As a dollar figure, $20 million is the total estimate of the 2000-2001 Fiscal Year recommended cuts. There are so many items included in this year’s public health budget that are geared towards cutting services, that the concerns of all interested parties at today’s rally could be summarized by the ongoing chant of "No More Cuts, No More Cuts".

Nora Roman was the main speaker. As usual, she seemed to be the principal keeper of all relevant information, doing her best to inform the crowd on everything that is due to be lost this year within the domain of public healthcare. She is a nurse in the Women’s Health Center at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH), and one of the leading spokespersons for The Emergency Coalition to Save Public Health. This group represents over 300 patients, workers, health providers, and concerned community members.

Another key speaker was Darren Lewis from The Coalition on Homelessness Substance Abuse Mental Health Workgroup. His statement that "Cutting Mental Health Doesn’t Cut It" referred to the $4.7 million being cut from Community Mental Health, that has been largely ignored by policy makers and the media.

Part of the aim of today’s protest was to develop a lead on influencing the Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors, which will vote on June 28 whether to continue the crisis throughout the city’s healthcare system. Coalition members will demand that the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Brown examine the priorities in a $4.4 billion budget, and ensure that public health escapes the budget ax.

The DPH has proposed over $20 million in cuts, which include: 20 inpatient medical/surgical beds at SFGH, closure and privatization of the only remaining public outpatient pharmacy at SFGH, and over $5 million in cuts to community primary care and mental health care, totalled. These proposed cuts would occur in the face of a current staffing crisis, which continues to misuse and mismanage "salary savings" by keeping more than 600 positions open at all times, in addition to the 109 positions which would be permanently eliminated.

Nora got back on the mike to thank everyone for coming. She made a point of getting people loaded into a large pink bus, which had brought a few dozen protesters. Mostly these were employees of SFGH, and she promised them that they not get back late.

In her closing statements, she mentioned a lawsuit being brought against the DPH, relating this primarily to Mitch Katz (Director of DPH) and his given status as monarch of a faltering empire. She advocated for San Francisco to take a step out of the dark ages and institute a single-payer program. This concept is also well illustrated by a quote from the literature handed out at the rally: "Options exist besides cutting essential health services in this wealthy city," says Ed Kinchley, Social Worker at SFGH Emergency Department and President of Local 790 General Chapter, SFGH. "We are in a record surplus year; $20,000,000 can be found. We, the public, need to tell our elected officials that we demand full funding now, and that Mayor Brown and the Supervisors should join us in working for real health care reform at the State and Federal levels so this vicious cycle will end."


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