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Council Questions Healv

By Sewell Chan

A seemingly innocuous revamping of Cambridge's public health care system has raised the ire of several city councillors, who say they were not informed of the restructuring by City Manager Robert W. Healy.

At last night's City Council meeting Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 said the restructuring--which combined the services of Cambridge Hospital with those of the city's health and hospitals department--did not become known to him until he read about it in the newspapers.

"Wouldn't it seem that that's an issue that would come before the council prior to its being done?" Reeves asked Healy.

Other city councillors said Healy had offered them only a vague description of the health-care restructuring, which changed the city's billing procedure of charging the government for public health costs.

Last night's debate manifested a longstanding dilemma of city politics. While the council ostensibly supervises city policy, the manager has full authority to make administrative judgements.

The health care revamping also combined the posts of Cambridge Hospital administrator and city health and hospitals commissioner. Healy last week appointed Dr. John G. O'Brien '72, hospital administrator since 1986, to the combined position.

"I got more information from the newspapers than I did from the press release," said Councillor Michael A. Sullivan. "We should be kept abreast of the changes."

Healy defended his actions, saying "it's not that major a change except in the mode of delivery of service."

"This is an administrative organization prerogative that has been done with great discussion with the Health Policy Board," the manager said.

But Reeves faulted the manager for failing to adequately explain the city's new public health funding scheme, in which the city will be paid an annual cost per patient, rather than the former feeper-service plan.

"This was no little-bitty change," the mayor said. "It could significantly impact the fiscal realities of the hospital, if not the entire city."

Councillors Francis H. Duehay '55 and Timothy J. Toomey Jr. proposed that Healy give a full debriefing of the hospital restructuring to the council.

In other council business, councillors said they were confused by an invitation to the February 7 swearing-in ceremony of Police Commissioner Perry L. Anderson.

The invitations had cited Anderson's position as that of "police chief."

"I don't see why we've gotten invitations to the swearing-in of the chief of police if the position of chief of police doesn't exist," Councillor Kathleen L. Born said.

Healy said the invitations were incorrect. "Someone in doing the invitations used the title of 'police chief,'" the manager said. "We don't have a police chief."

Anderson last month took and passed the test administered to all state police officers, because technically he was not yet a police officer in Massachusetts. Anderson--the city's first Black police head--was formerly chief of police in Miami.

The council also sent to a second reading an ordinance to prohibit the sale of machetes in the city.

Sullivan introduced the measure in November in the wake of several violent incidents in which citizens were assaulted with machetes.

Several councillors had wanted to amend the ordinance to empower Cambridge police to arrest offenders, to set a 30-day sentence for anyone found guilty of sale or possession of a machete and to ban in addition the possession of the knives.

But in a memorandum, Deputy City Solicitor Donald A. Drisdell ruled that none of the amendments are within the city's power and could only be enacted by the state legislature.

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