SEATTLE — A $15-million hole in the budget has King County Public Health considering closing four of its regional health centers and transferring primary care serves away from two others.
“We’ve run out of rabbits we can pull from our hat,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County. “To operate with a balanced budget, we may be compelled to reduce staffing and services.”
Fleming called finances ‘precarious’ ever since voters repealed the major source of funding for Public Health 14 years ago, and a voter-approved cap on property taxes restricted the remaining source of local, flexible funding.
The public health centers on the chopping block include Auburn, Federal Way, Northshore in Bothell and Greenbridge in White Center. We’re told while Northshore would close, one of its satellite clinics could remain open.
Centers in Columbia Center and North Seattle would see their primary care services transferred to other organizations like NeighborCare or Harborview/US Medicine in 2015.
Along with closures, Fleming said serves like disease investigation and tobacco and obesity prevention would likely see cuts.
Some 200 people could ultimately lose their jobs due to reductions in service and center closures.
The King County Executive will now consider the proposal and either accept it as part of his budget plan in the fall or reject it and ask for something different. Ultimately, the King County Council will have to vote to approve or reject the cuts sometime in November.