NEWS DAY | Hard choices in recession: Wielding budget scalpel or ax at HCMC / Closing schools in Anoka-Hennepin / Women’s health and childbearing

<a href=A scalpel or an ax at HCMC Poison control? 24/7 psych emergency services? Burn unit beds? These are among the possible cuts at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the Business Journal, as HCMC faces next year’s budget of $550 million, down from the current $600 million. The budget cuts are caused in large part by Governor Pawlenty’s line item veto of the state’s General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) health insurance program serving the poor. While HCMC officials say that no final decisions have been made, they are considering targets that include medical care for people who are not residents of Hennepin County and a variety of other areas:

Those areas include the $25 million-a-year medical-education program, which employs about 270 residents at any given time, many of whom end up becoming doctors in Minnesota’s rural areas. The roughly $30 million-a-year behavioral health program also is on the list. It comprises one of the largest in-patient programs in the area and a 24/7 emergency psychiatric center.

Other programs that might face the scalpel include HCMC’s 17-bed critical burn unit, which serves adults and children throughout Minnesota, and the hospital’s hyperbaric chamber, which is the only one in the state able to treat emergency situations such as acute carbon monoxide poisoning.

St. Paul’s Regions Hospital is also facing more than $20 million in cuts.

Having babies and the recession Both MinnPost and the Minnesota Independent reported yesterday on a new study from the Guttmacher Institute. The Institute noted that births in the United States dropped by almost two percent in 2008, and set out to investigate the effect of the recession on women’s decisions about family planning and having babies. Among the findings:

• “With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to have a baby right now.” So say 64 percent of all women, and 77 percent of low-income women.
• But, with the economy the way it is, women also can’t afford contraception. “Nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and the same proportion report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.”
• Increasingly, they are losing access to healthcare. “More than one in four women surveyed or their partners have lost jobs or health insurance in the past year.”

Read the full report, “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions” here, and the Guttmacher Institute summary here.

Anoka-Hennepin closing schools With student numbers down by 2,000 over the past five years, the state’s largest school district will close several schools next year, reports MPR. Anoka-Hennepin joins Minneapolis, St. Paul and Robbinsdale in closing schools because of declining student numbers. Anoka-Hennepin has not closed any schools since the 1950s, when it consolidated one-room schools. KARE 11 reported on last night’s school board meeting:

After lengthy study, the school board voted to close Champlin Elementary School in Champlin, Riverview Specialty School for Math and Environmental Science in Brooklyn Park, L.O. Jacob Elementary School in Coon Rapids, Soteberg Elementary School in Coon Rapids, Washington Elementary School in Anoka, Sandberg Middle School in Anoka, Peter Enich Kindergarten Center in Anoka and Parkview Early Childhood Center in Champlin. …
Washington Elementary will be re-purposed for sixth graders from the closed Sandburg Middle School and Park View Early Childhood Center will re-open as an elementary school.

World/National News

Army kills 130 at political rally in Guinea The army attacked a political rally protesting the current military regime, according to BBC. Troops killed at least 130 people, and beat, jailed, and raped others, according to eyewitness reports. Troops shot into the crowd and also bayoneted and knifed their victims.

Capt Camara, the military ruler, said that the troops had been provoked by a stampede at the rally, and that, because of tension in the country, he could not control all of their actions.

Five opposition leaders were arrested and later released:

Sidya Toure, a former prime minister, told our reporter he had returned home to find his home completely looted.

Four cars had also been destroyed, along with his library.

Two of the leaders – Cellou Dalein Diallo and Jean-Marie Dore – are in hospital.

An estimated 50,000 people gathered in Conakry to protest against Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a bloodless coup last year, just hours after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled with the support of the military for more than two decades.

The BBC quoted Africa analyst Paul Melly:

This reminds us that the army which took power in December is in fact the same army that underpinned the Lansana Conte regime and the same army that was involved in the very bloody repression of protests in January and February of 2007.Capt Moussa Dadis Camara promised he wouldn’t stand in any election in 2009 but by putting the election back to 2010 he’s, as it were, got out of that promise.

Cellou Dalein Diallo and Sidya Toure represent potentially the greatest threat to any candidacy by Dadis Camara should Guinea be allowed a free election. Both originated as prime ministers attempting to carry through reforms under the old regime; both found their reform programmes derailed.

Honduras closes radio stations, bans public gatherings
After declaring a state of emergency Sunday night, the de facto government continued its efforts to shut down protests over the three-month-old coup, according to NPR reports:

Before dawn, security forces had stormed the offices of Radio Globo and TV Channel 36. Both stations were immediately shut down. The two outlets were the main broadcast channels for the pro-Zelaya camp. The stations regularly had interviews with Zelaya.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya remains inside the Brazilian embassy, where he went after returning to the country last week.

Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president, declared that under the state of emergency police may arrest people without warrants and “unauthorized” public gatherings are banned for 45 days.

Congresswoman Doris Gutierrez says public rallies cannot be banned for the next 45 days when elections are taking place in just 60 days.

“If you prohibit people from gathering, from moving freely, the candidates are going to have to suspend their campaigns. The people are going to be afraid to participate,” Gutierrez says.

War Reports

Iraq Bomb attacks across the country killed 13 people yesterday, according to BBC.

Afghanistan Some 30 civilians were killed today when a bus hit a roadside bomb near Kandahar, reports NPR, and another 39 were wounded:

A U.N. report issued Saturday said August was the deadliest month of the year for civilians because of violence from the insurgency. A total of 1,500 civilians died in Afghanistan from January through August, up from 1,145 for the same period of 2008.

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