Kern Medical Center
Kern Medical Center is a valuable asset for the people of Kern County, providing not only essential safety net services for our local indigent population but also critical medical care and training that is not available at any other area hospital.
The current situation for county hospitals is not good. Out of California’s 58 counties only 13 have hospitals that are county owned and operated. Over the past ten years, county run hospitals in the Counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo have shut their doors.
The reason is simple, with local governments facing decreased revenues while having to shoulder greater state and federal mandates, particularly in health services, counties are being forced to eliminate services. Unfortunately these closures lead to lower levels of care for area patients.
Essential services that must be preserved
KMC is Kern County’s only trauma center, providing 24 hour care for those with severe injuries. To have the Level II Trauma Center, KMC is required to have a wide range of specialized fields such as neurosurgery. Having these capabilities available in a short time span is something other area hospitals are not able to provide. If neurosurgery was not performed at KMC, many of those treated would have to be diverted to Los Angeles or Fresno. The bottom line of having this level of service is that more lives are saved and disabilities are less severe.
KMC is Kern County’s only area hospital dedicated to physician resident training. Each year, Kern Medical Center trains over 100 doctors with 65 full-time faculty physicians on staff. Providing this service allows us to cultivate medical professionals locally to ensure that we have a wealth of medical professionals in a wide range of fields.
Approximately 1/3 of all doctors in Kern County have been trained at KMC. Other area hospitals and clinics benefit from this supply of doctors and, in turn, a greater level of service is provided to the community. As an academic hospital and through their affiliation with UCLA, KMC is able to provide training opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable locally.
KMC is also has a highly respected OBGYN department. Each year KMC has 4000 deliveries and three quarters of the mothers are high risk. Those working in the OBGYN department and neonatal intensive-care unit have training for high risk factors providing a level of care unique to our community.
Finally, KMC provides state mandated indigent care to those in our community who are unable to pay.
Whether or not KMC continues to exist, the County of Kern will be required to provide a level of indigent care. Through operation of our own hospital we are able to better manage this mandated service through use of best practices and cost control measures.
Challenges and opportunities
From 1998 to 2008, Kern Medical Center lost $66 million dollars, putting the hospital on track to become another lost
county hospital, much like San Luis Obispo or San Bernardino. Thankfully the Board of Supervisors and leadership at KMC over the past few years have done a great job turning things around and are showing solid profits each year. But, as it often happens in government, things can change quickly.
As Supervisor I will continue the current effort to control costs, improve billing and collection practices and implement best practices that have led to the turn around we have seen. The hospital business is constantly changing and we need to make sure we have management professionals that are up to facing these daily challenges.
Additionally, I would work to find ways to have county employees better utilize the services at KMC. For each county employee that utilizes KMC instead of other area hospitals, there are savings to the county budget. As the county’s
second largest employer, the County of Kern could realize significant savings if more employees choose our hospital when they need care. However, rather than mandating employees use KMC, I will work to find ways to incentivize use of the county hospital and better educate our employees on KMC’s services. KMC should be the hospital of choice for our employees.