Bonds may fund hospital remodel

By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun

For many months, the Kern Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) has been meeting with members of the community to listen to concerns and preferences regarding the state-mandated seismic remodel of the Kern Valley Hospital. Many of those comments have been incorporated into a scaled-down facility master plan, and alternate methods of financing the construction are being considered.

It was learned at the Board of Directors meeting on June 6 that board members will be considering general obligation bonds to fund the remodel rather than using a parcel tax as they proposed in the June 2017 special election. That measure was defeated, with one of the reasons being that many voters felt a parcel tax was not a fair way to spread the tax burden.

General obligation (GO) bonds are used to raise funds for projects that serve the entire community at large, like parks and schools, and appear on property tax bills based on a percentage of assessed value. A parcel tax is a flat fee per parcel without regard to the size or value of the property.

KVHD had preferred the parcel tax because those funds could be used to purchase equipment and furnishings, whereas GO bonds can only be used to fund construction and large structural equipment. KVHD has found another source to pay for some of this equipment, having just received approval for a $1.9 million loan through the California Energy Commission.

The community will be able to learn more about these financing options and see a draft of the new remodel plans at four open houses to be held on June 16, 18, 25, and 26. Public feedback is encouraged. Details about the events can be found at kvhd.org.

CEO Tim McGlew reported at the Board meeting that results of a community needs assessment survey determining the local healthcare services most requested by the public will be ready for publication in July. It is a KVHD priority to find ways to add some of these recommended services locally. Kaiser has now begun allowing its members to be admitted to the KVHD Skilled Nursing Facility.

KVHD is working on expanding its telemedicine program to give the community access to specialists without having to leave the KRV. The key to this service is having access to high speed broadband, and they are currently exploring cost-effective solutions.

CFO Chet Beedle presented April 2018 financial data. April showed a downturn in revenue with a net loss for the month, due in part to low occupancy in the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF). The 10-month period of this fiscal year still shows a surplus of $821,598. Financial figures for May have improved; the SNF is adding both residents and staff. It is expected that overall patient volume will increase during the summer months.

Beedle presented a proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget for board approval. The current FY 2018 is expected to end with $1 million in net profit on June 30. Next year is budgeted closer to $1.5 million in an attempt to push harder to generate more income for payment of the upcoming construction expenses and service expansion. The generation of this much income for a rural hospital is well above the state average. The board voted unanimously to approve the FY 2019 budget.

After a performance evaluation was conducted in a closed session of the board, a motion was made during the open session to give an annual cost of living increase of 3 percent to CEO Tim McGlew. Much discussion ensued among the board members regarding his professional leadership and his success in exceeding the budgeted profit for the year, yet some were concerned about the timing of the salary increase. The board approved the increase on a divided 3-2 vote; Directors Busch, Derr, and Casas for, and Directors Knight and Blythe against.

The Hospital Auxiliary advised the public that due to recent thefts outside the Thrift Store, donations should be dropped off only when the gate is open so the items can be brought inside. New Auxiliary officers will be installed at a lunch on June 13. The 50th anniversary of the Kern Valley Hospital will be celebrated at a luncheon on June 9.