Laying off employees has become so routine that Stanislaus County supervisors had no words during Tuesday's latest bloodletting. Instead of gushing regret and woe as they have in weeks past, they stared dully, said nothing and voted to terminate six more.
That brought to 92 the number laid off in three weeks to help close a $20 million deficit.
After several people associated with public health, the county's latest divisional victim, somberly got up and left the meeting chamber, Supervisor Bill O'Brien realized the lost opportunity.
"We just affected six families in this county," he said to the other supervisors. "It's getting more tough to do. Though I know I have a responsibility to taxpayers to keep us going, (I am) feeling a little numb as we see these things week after week after week."
Moments later, County Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson said he appreciated O'Brien "for saying what we were all thinking." He described a "stark reality (that) starts to set in. These are very real decisions taking a very real toll and affecting lives in an adverse way."
Those to lose jobs by Aug. 14 are three health workers, two nurses and a secretary. The action also eliminated 11 vacant positions, including an assistant director.
The division handles immunizations, communicable diseases, HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, refugee health, pregnancy support services, tobacco education and teen pregnancy prevention, but it doesn't include county health clinics.
Supervisors on Tuesday also sacked the county's 26 physicians in training and the residency program's four staff members. But they will be rehired by the program's replacement, a consortium of the county, Doctors Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center.
The Valley Family Medicine Residency Program becomes official July 1, created to capture federal funding that was abruptly cut off last year. The program recruits doctors to the area and serves as many as 80,000 low-income residents.
Leaders praised those who worked frantically for a solution despite long odds. Supervisor Vito Chiesa said: "You were thrown against the wall with a hundred roadblocks and you found a way around them. I'm holding on to this one piece of good information."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2390.