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BURBANK CLINIC'S LOSS TO BE FELT PLANNED OCTOBER CLOSURE TO AFFECT 6,600.

Byline: Helen Gao Staff Writer

BURBANK - The Burbank Health Center, operated by the county to serve the poor and uninsured, defies the stereotypes of long waiting lines and harried nurses and doctors working under chaotic conditions.

``This place treats people really good. Some doctors don't care, but these people care,'' said Gloria Montefinos, who has been coming to the clinic for various ailments for the last several years.

Christine, a clinic user who declined to give her last name, echoes Montefino's feelings.

``This has been a total lifesaver. People are very nice, efficient and compassionate,'' she said. ``They don't shame you if you don't have health insurance.''

But after 50 years in Burbank, the popular clinic, which has served as a safety net for generations of local residents, will close in October, along with three other Los Angeles County clinics.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last month to close the facilities as one of many cost-cutting measures to keep the county's health care system afloat. The Department of Health Services is struggling to eliminate a $365 million deficit that is expected to balloon to $688 million by 2005.

The estimated 6,600 patients who rely on the Burbank clinic will be referred to county facilities in Glendale and North Hollywood, as well as to public-private health partnerships in the area, said Ressie Roman, health deputy for Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

``When the health department came up with the (cuts), part of their plan is to ensure there are other health care service providers available in the one- to five-mile radius,'' she said.

Roman said those affected are primarily concerned about transportation to other clinics and access to their medical records after the clinics close.

The county has established a hotline - (800) 427-8700 - to answer questions.

``We recognize the difficulties in transitioning and some of the transportation issues,'' said John Wallace, a health department spokesman. ``But it's important that we do all we can to save money and preserve services.''

The 30-or-so staffers at the Burbank clinic will be transferred to other facilities, but their new assignments have not yet been determined.

Dr. Elise Pomerance, the lead physician at the Burbank clinic, said her staff will do its best to plan a smooth transition and ensure that patients are informed where their doctors will be reassigned.

``The patient is going to have choice where he is going to go,'' she said.

Because no staff cuts are proposed, Pomerance said she does not expect lines to get longer at clinics that are absorbing Burbank's patient load.

To make room for the medical patients from Burbank, Pomerance said discussions are taking place to relocate the public health section of the Glendale clinic, which deals with epidemics, to Burbank. At the same time, there are talks to open a new clinic in Sun Valley, a plan that has been in the works for a few years.

In an industrial part of town, the Burbank clinic at 1101 W. Magnolia is in a modest one-story building said to have been a house long ago.

But inside, the building is clean and well-lighted, and the atmosphere is low-key and friendly. Patients said they are seen without much of a wait.

The clinic provides family-planning services, prenatal care and general care for walk-in patients with illnesses that are not life-threatening.

Toni Scaramella, a nurse supervisor who has been at the clinic for more than a decade, said local residents are deeply attached to the facility.

``They came when they were babies. They came when they are old enough for prenatal care,'' she said. ``We took care of them. Now we take care of their children.''

While she will miss her colleagues, Scaramella said she is most concerned about the patients.

``Some feel bad,'' she said. ``Most of them live in the area. ... They grew up with the health center.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 8, 2002
Words:643
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