Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Spend Billions More on HIT When Public-Health Services Get Crunched by Budget Woes?

I have the answer to these cutbacks of pubic health services.

In the midst of economic chaos, let's spend tens of billions or even better, hundreds of billions of dollars more on experimental healthcare IT.

(It worked out so well for the UK's NPfIT, we should follow the NHS's example of how to wisely spend our crucial healthcare billions.)

I will comment no further:

Wall Street Journal Health Blog
October 5, 2011, 10:00 AM ET
Public-Health Services Get Crunched by Budget Woes
By Betsy McKay

Immunizations, emergency preparations for hurricanes, and restaurant inspections are among local public-health services being cut back or eliminated amid budget constraints.

Some 55% of the nation’s county and city health departments reduced or eliminated at least one program between July 2010 and June 2011, and the public-health workforce continued to shrink, according to a new survey by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

The cuts hit maternal and child health services (at 21% of the departments reporting cuts), personal health services (20%), emergency preparedness (20%), chronic disease screenings (17%), and food safety (11%), among other programs.

Health departments lost 5,400 jobs in the first half of this year, after losing 6,000 in all of 2010. There are currently about 120,600 local health department employees across the country after those cutbacks. While the workforce has been shrinking since 2008, the downsizing “is now eating into program capacity,” says Robert Pestronk, NACCHO’s executive director.

Particularly worrying are the cutbacks in emergency-preparedness programs, he says. “It’s troublesome given what we’re seeing in terms of weather conditions and threats in communities,” he tells the Health Blog. Health-department employees help plan for emergencies such as hurricanes, make sure supplies are in place and work as responders.

Meantime, cutbacks in immunization programs are making it harder for some children to get needed polio, tetanus and other preventive vaccinations, while reductions in food-safety programs mean fewer restaurant inspections or staff to interview people sickened in a food-borne illness outbreak, Pestronk says.

These woes aren’t limited to local health departments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen its budget for preparedness and response fall by more than $350 million since 2005, to about $832 million in fiscal 2011. That challenges the CDC’s ability to respond to a pandemic like the type featured in the recent bio-thriller “Contagion,” Rear Admiral Ali Khan, the CDC’s chief of public health preparedness and response, told the Health Blog at a screening of the film.

Also see my March 2010 post "Hospitals Under the Knife: Sacrificing Hospital Jobs for the Extravagance of Healthcare IT?" where I observed:

... In effect, NY hospital physicians, nurses and support staff will lose their job due to budget shortfalls, at the same time the NY hospitals have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the extravagance of experimental clinical IT systems whose benefit is still an unknown.

Perhaps some of those millions could have been better spent on human beings, such as employees or better yet, patient care.

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Outrageous conduct by the country's leaders is exemplified in your report. So what else is new?

But, there really is no one on the other side of the aisle who thinks any differently.

You do not see Chairman Ryan or party mates putting forth an agenda to stop the money flow in to the coffers of the HIT vendors.

America is being fleeced.