The six local low-income clinics supported by San Luis Obispo County will not close or shorten their hours as a result of a new two-year contract approved Tuesday with Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.
The deal comes four months after a heated discussion in June when the county Board of Supervisors proposed cutting CHC’s annual funding to $2.2 million from $3 million.
The new contract gives CHC $2.54 million in funding this fiscal year ending June 30 and $2.5 million in fiscal year 2012-13.
Under the negotiated contract, the county must provide funding for adults with low incomes, limited assets and medical conditions that require treatment if they qualify under federal poverty guidelines.
CHC agreed to provide those services when it contracted with the county in 2004 and took over six county-run medical clinics in Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Morro Bay, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.
The county initially provided $5.1 million a year, but allotments have dwindled as the county has faced cuts to its public health services.
While Tuesday’s deal saved the clinics from closing their doors, CHC representatives told the county they may need to see fewer patients because the new contract gives about $460,000 less each year than in fiscal year 2010-11.
In 2010, CHC provided 335,846 clinic visits for 74,285 patients, with about 24,000 of those patients being uninsured.
In June, the possible closure of the CHC clinics in Cambria and Morro Bay led to several emotional pleas from former and current patients.
The negotiations in the months since have resulted in cost-saving concessions from both the county and CHC to pad the contract with more money.
Cardiology, neurology and orthopedic care — about $100,000 of specialty services included in the former contract — will no longer go through CHC. Instead, the county will provide the services.
That cost, as well as an additional $340,000 for other services, means the county will spend $440,000 from its general fund in unbudgeted assistance to CHC.
CHC also agreed to several in-house cuts to reduce operating expenses.
They include reductions in certain staff benefits, including reduced contributions to employees’ 401(k) retirement plans; compensation reductions for administrators and managers by implementing one furlough day per month; and increases in the share of health insurance costs that employees pay.
CHC currently has 491 employees on its payroll, excluding contracted professionals.
In June, Ron Castle, chief executive officer of CHC, was criticized for his $292,000 annual salary at a Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisor Bruce Gibson then suggested that cuts be made within the organization instead of asking the county for more money.