8:40 p.m. September 25, 2013

Michael Weinstein Warns LA Public Health Dept: I Will Cut You.

Michael Weinstein’s Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the anti-vaccine research, prophylactic pushing backers of the Measure B condom mandate, are at it again. This time, they’ve collected signatures for a proposed ballot measure that would create a separate public health department for the City of Los Angeles.

In May, AHF filed nearly 70,000 signatures, well above the 45,252 required to qualify the measure, which will appear on the June 2014 election ballot.

At Tuesdays hearing, Los Angeles county supervisor Zev Taroslavsky called the measure "absolutely crazy, stupid, destructive, draconian, and dangerous to the public health."

Miguel Santana, the city’s chief administrative officer, echoed the sentiment, stating that not only does the city have no interest in taking on the added responsibility, but that the measure would be impossible to implement. The LA Times reported that Santana estimates that it would cost $261 million a year to run the proposed city health department.

Were the measure to pass, city residents would be immediately lose health protections until the new health department was established. Compounding this, per the measure the city would be barred from contracting with the county on healthcare matters. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the director of the county health department warned that "[t]here would be an immediate gap in provision of public health services. Public health threats just won’t wait 120 days, and disease of course does not stop at the city border."

County officials accuse the foundation of proposing the ballot measure in revenge for a recent audit of AHF, which provides health services to low-income populations with HIV and AIDS, often under contract with the LA department of public health.

Revenge.

(Last year's audit, which examined AHF fiscal contract compliance between January 2008 and March 2009, found that AHF had over-billed the county to the tune of $1.75 million. Last month, AHF and Michael Weinstein responded by suing Los Angeles County. Naturally. AHF claimed that three county officials falsely accused them of over-billing as punishment for AHF's porn condom advocacy and retaliation against AHF's criticisms of the county's AIDS funding mismanagement.)

During Tuesdays hearing, Yaroslavsky accused claimed the AHF wanted to "punish this department [for the audit] by dismantling it."

So why does AHF say about the ballot measure? Here’s Michael Weinstein:

"Part of our reason for spearheading this ballot initiative was to open up a frank public conversation about the shortcomings of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: a calcified institution layered with too much bureaucracy that gives short shrift to City residents."

AHF argues that the county health department is not providing city residents with their fair share of services and has "stumbled or fell short on managing several public health threats", citing the CDC’s interventional assistance with an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the Skid Row homeless population and the current incidence of syphilis in the gay population.

If the ballot measure passes, the city will be bereft of services like infectious control, vaccination, and basic health care until a new department is set up. The ballot measure calls for a new department to be established within 120 days, but Santana says it would take two years. In the meantime, yes, by all means, please strip the city of their public health services on the basis that their public health department not doing a good enough job.

About that...

As the LA Times reported yesterday, AHF is currently fighting attempts by its healthcare workers to unionize. Why would a successful HIV/AIDS nonprofit - with an annual budget of $750 million - fight to contest the validity of a petition of its providers to be represented by a union? Perhaps the AHF isn’t doing it’s job so well, after all.

Medical providers at AHF’s non-profit clinics claim that AHF has lost sight of its mission and patient care is suffering. They say that AHF is too focused on political advocacy and that complaints of understaffed clinics, too few Spanish interpreters, and the mounting pressure to see more patients per day - even at the expense of quality care - have been cast aside.

"Kim Sommers, medical director at the organization's Hollywood center, recalled that one day the clinic was so over capacity that a patient suffering from chest pains was sent home by the lone over-stressed medical assistant on duty because no one was available to give him the electrocardiogram Sommers had ordered. "‘He came back two days later and he ended up being OK," Sommers said. "But the point is, we don't want to wait for something horrible to happen.’"

Something horrible like the City of Los Angeles being stripped of its public health department because Michael Weinstein wants revenge.