Group seeks Los Angeles city health department ballot measure


Residents of Los Angeles are at risk for infectious disease, according to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). AHF says that the L.A. County Health Department is too big to be efficient, and that recently the department failed to warn healthcare providers near Skid Row about an outbreak of tuberculosis.

"And 20 percent of all those TB cases on Skid Row were among HIV patients. We run an HIV clinic adjacent to Skid Row. That's an example of the public health department being asleep on the job," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation president.

Weinstein is launching a voter initiative to take radical action, not just for AIDS patients, but for all L.A. city residents. It would eliminate the county public health department as the care provider for the city of L.A.'s public health needs.

In its place, the city would establish its own public health department, which would be the only entity to regulate and enforce local health laws.

"Syphilis, STDs, HIV, TB, they could do a far better job than they are currently doing," said Weinstein.

The county public health department rejects claims that it is bloated and inefficient, saying in statement: "We are committed and work every day to protect and improve the health of every Los Angeles resident."

You may wonder about the cost. Proponents say the city would be entitled to all the funding that L.A. County currently gets to serve L.A. city residents, about $200 million per year.

"We are still studying the ballot initiative, but at first glance we are concerned that it could result in duplication of services and reduction of public health protection for L.A. city residents," wrote an L.A. County Health Department representative in reply.

City officials already drained by a budget deficit are also reviewing the AHF proposal.

Proponents will need 41,000 valid signatures on the petition drive. The city council could adopt the measure or pass it on for voters to decide in June next year.

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