Four of Anne Arundel County's public health clinics will close Jan. 1, forced out of business by the state's budget crisis.
The centers in Crownsville, Severn, Churchton and Edgewater, which provide family planning and pediatric care for about 1,200 women and children, already were targeted for eventual closing because of declining use. Deep slashes in government spending under the state deficit-reduction plan prompted the Health Department to speed up the long-debated move.
The department is struggling to cope with a $1.2 million cut in state support, spokeswoman Evelyn Stein said. Other services could be curtailed in the future to offset the reduction, she acknowledged.
Closing the four clinics will save the department about $40,000 in equipment and maintenance costs, she said. None of the nurses or staffwill be laid off.
Patients will be shifted to the nearest public health center. The Health Department runs 10 other clinics, scatteredacross the county from Brooklyn Park to Friendship.
Health officials still are negotiating a plan to provide nearby care for patients of the Churchton Health Center and the Davidsonville Health Center, Stein said. The closest clinics are in Annapolis, which are difficult to reach for South County residents who don't have cars. Much of South County has no public transportation.
Several clinics are within commuting distance of the Meade Village Health Center in Severn and the South Shore Health Center in Crownsville, which will also close Jan. 1.
Health officials already had proposed shutting down the fourcenters because they were steadily losing clients. All four serve a large number of low-income families who now have the option of selecting a private physician under a new Medicaid program.
Maryland Access for Care, financed through the federal Medicaid health insurance for the poor, hooks up families with private physicians.
Of the 965 patients in the clinics' child-health programs, 627 -- about 65 percent -- will be redirected to physicians, Stein said. The remaining 338 patients, along with about 250 women receiving family planning services, will be shifted to other clinics.
Several specialized programs at the clinics, including one for cardiac-care patients, also will be moved.
Officials have been considering regionalizing the health clinics for some time. But Stein said she didn't expect more closings or shifts in the upcoming months.