KVHD expands Rural Health

By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun

The completion of a new waiting room and three additional exam rooms at the Rural Health Clinic was reported to the Kern Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) Board of Directors at its meeting on February 6. This expansion now allows space for Kaiser Permanente to start scheduling medical appointments for its members in the Kern River Valley on two half-days per month.

When the final construction is completed in two months, the clinic will have added a total of four exam rooms. This will enable the district to expand telemedicine and behavioral health services in addition to accommodating visits for Kaiser patients who can avoid traveling to Bakersfield. The board acted to approve signing a sublease with Kaiser Permanente.

These improvements at the Rural Health Clinic were paid for entirely out of KVHD operating revenues without the use of any public funding. According to an outside auditor present at the meeting, it is unusual for a rural hospital district to have net operating income when most experience losses.

Auditor Rick Jackson of JWT & Associates presented audited results of KVHD financial statements for fiscal year 2017 from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. Its net income of $1.7 million was the best year the district has ever had due in large part to supplemental payments from managed care plans. It compares to just $244,208 in net income for the prior fiscal year.

This extra cash has reduced the district’s deficit substantially. If this annual net income rate were to continue for another three years, KVHD would be able to pay off all its current debt. In the meantime, the district maintains sufficient cash and cash equivalent balances to pay all short-term liabilities and service its long-term debt without difficulty. The board acted to receive and file the 2017 audit.

CFO Chet Beedle stated that net income for the month of December was low at $70,078. But total net income for the first six months of this fiscal year is $771,606, which is 64 percent higher than budgeted. Beedle discussed the assumptions he will use to prepare a fiscal year 2019 budget (7/1/18-6/30/19) which includes the passage of a public funding measure to enable KVHD to construct the state mandated seismic remodel. The board acted to approve those budget assumptions.

CEO Tim McGlew stated that the district has begun having discussions with members of the community about the new seismic upgrade plans for the hospital. KVHD has determined the absolute minimum construction level needed to meet state seismic requirements and keep the hospital open. It will consider that as a working base from which to add additional services and benefits depending on community feedback about its priorities. Another ballot measure will be written to reflect those community responses.

The retail pharmacy is currently experiencing operational delays due to staff being out sick, a new computer system being installed, and making a change to a new drug vendor all at the same time. KVHD has hired two new staff members to partially alleviate the problem, and it appreciates the patience of pharmacy customers during this interim period.

Chief Nursing Officer Mark Gordon will be traveling to Bakersfield and Ridgecrest to learn more about Mobile Evaluation Teams and Psychiatric Evaluation Centers for planning of future service coordination in the Kern River Valley. Presentations are ongoing to educate the community on preventing opioid addiction as part of the CSI Momentum grant, and instructional brochures have been printed for use by parents and providers.

Gene Parks of the Hospital Foundation expressed his concern about lack of currently available drivers for the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) bus due to staff being on medical leave. Parks suggested having a pool of volunteer drivers to cover future staffing gaps. Also discussed was the occasional lack of internet capability at the SNF; KVHD will look into upgrading its internet package with the provider.

The next KVHD Board of Directors meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 7 at 6 p.m. in the Administrative Conference Room.