MEDICINE : 6 Public Health Centers May Close : They are among 45 in the county that would shut their doors under a plan to address a $606-million budget shortfall. Supervisors will also consider other options on Tuesday.


Six public health centers in the San Gabriel Valley are among 45 in the county that would close under a proposal to plug a $606-million shortfall in the county Department of Health Services' budget.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to review four options, two of which call for closing all county health centers, including ones in Alhambra, Azusa, El Monte, La Puente, Monrovia and Pomona. County health centers provide outpatient services to mostly indigent, uninsured and Medi-Cal patients.

"I think for a large percentage of the population, a (county health center) is the facility of last resort," said Margaret Berumen, chief executive officer of the area's six centers. "This is the only place that they could access health care."

El Monte, the San Gabriel Valley's largest health center, treats about 132,000 patients each year, Berumen said. All of the area's centers track tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, and provide immunizations.

"If these activities aren't taking place, the repercussion for all of the community is very negative," she said.

The area's six centers have a total operating budget of about $24 million.

Supervisors will also review two other options that do not involve shutting down health centers. A third option calls for closing Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and two smaller public hospitals, while the fourth option calls for closing the medical center and cutting services at the public health centers.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday asked the Health Services Dept. to come up with other budget-cutting options besides the four options presented.

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