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Suffolk delays health-lab budget cuts

The administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has temporarily put off $2.7 million in budget cuts that would have come from lab services at Suffolk County health centers and the sale of its visiting nurse program.

The moves had been planned as a way to plug a $20-million loss in state aid, and budget aides say the lost savings will have to made up with cuts elsewhere.

"I can't imagine any scenario in which we don't have some amount of further reductions," said Deputy County Executive Kenneth Crannell.

The disclosures came Thursday at the first meeting of a joint legislative-executive commission that is focused on ways to cope with the aid losses. The reduced state funding affects not only health centers, but the medical examiner's office and emergency services training.

During the 90-minute meeting, commission members also raised the specter of charging for inspections of X-ray machines and sewage systems. They also discussed having the medical examiner charge back the police department and the district attorney's office for crime lab work, using asset forfeiture funds, or turning over those functions to state crime labs.

Levy aides said the sale of the county's visiting nurse license to a private firm had to be temporarily put off because it will take 18 to 24 months to go through the regulatory process. They said the postponement of the cuts in health center lab services came after health officials determined that treating patients became far less effective without lab work.

-- Rick Brand

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