By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
Of primary concern to the Kern Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) at the meeting of its Board of Directors on July 1 was the continuing increase of new COVID-19 cases within the Kern River Valley (KRV).
On July 1, data on the Kern County Public Health Department website showed seven positive cases in residents of the KRV, but Kern Valley Hospital tested two more positive cases that prior weekend for a total of nine cases locally. On July 1 alone, the hospital provided 114 COVID-19 tests rather than its average of 36 daily tests. Many of those who came in to get tested that day stated it was because they had come in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
KVHD CEO Tim McGlew encouraged everyone with concerns about having contracted the virus to come in and receive the free tests on Wednesdays or Thursdays from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. No appointments are needed at this drive-thru tent site on the hospital grounds. All regular healthcare services are again available at KVHD, so residents are reminded to also take care of all their ongoing health conditions.
McGlew stressed the urgent need to wear masks when out in public, especially since the KRV receives so many out-of-town visitors. He and the other Kern County hospital CEOs are recording a public service announcement so all media outlets can emphasize the importance of mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing to reduce the current spread of the virus.
KVHD CFO Chet Beedle reported that May’s financial results show that the healthcare district experienced a net loss of nearly one million dollars after 11 months of its current fiscal year due to the COVID-19 crisis. Three months prior in February, before the virus effects took hold, KVHD had been doing quite well financially with a year-to-date profit of over $400,000.
However, because the hospital has opened back up for outpatient surgeries, physical therapy, and other routine healthcare services, the monthly net loss in May was much lower at $298,177 than the prior month of April which showed a loss of $753,471. In spite of the high year-to-date losses, KVHD has good cash reserves due to advances being paid for healthcare services rendered, expense reimbursement payments, and stimulus grants and loans.
Chief Nursing Officer Mark Gordon was pleased to report that the first class of five students trained in KVHD’s new Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program graduated on June 30. The next CNA class is expected to begin in September.
Legal Counsel Scott Nave gave a brief report of items discussed at the closed session of the Board of Directors held just prior to the public session. The Board completed the CEO performance evaluation; any salary increase consideration is to be delayed for six months.
Also in the closed meeting, the Board discussed negotiations for the potential purchase of a building where KVHD already leases office space. Of note, it has been mentioned at previous KVHD meetings that its seismic remodel plan calls for current administrative space within the hospital to be used instead for medical services. Future public meetings of the Board’s Building and Planning Committee may confirm if this is their reason for considering this purchase.
During the public portion of the meeting, the Board of Directors approved the fiscal year 2021 performance goals for CEO McGlew. They were expanded from the version presented last month to include more measurable objectives and to require frequent briefings to the Board. A goal for the seismic remodel states that a new nine-phase construction plan is to be presented to the Board “on or before August 2020” including sources of funding and timing for each phase.
Another CEO goal is to complete an overall strategic plan for the healthcare district within six months, and it should include a plan “for improving the public’s perception of the hospital.” A consultant has been hired to assist staff in generating this plan, and committees have been formed to address the major issues of access to services, revenue, community communications, capital projects, and staffing in preparation for the upcoming Board of Directors brainstorming session.
McGlew stated that this session will be a two-day meeting to be held in August. The public is encouraged to attend and contribute their ideas to the strategic plan.
The next public board meeting is scheduled for August 5 at 6:00 p.m. It is expected to be an in-person session (with masks) with an option to attend online through Zoom. Staff suggests that the public call before the meeting to confirm that both of these attendance options are available.