1 of 1
By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the star-studded panel of local leaders pulled together this week by Kern County Board of Supervisors' Chairman Mike Maggard is to help fix Kern Medical Center.
The goal is simple. The work to get there will be complex.
- Sheriff's Office interested in grant to build minimum-security barracks
- CALIFORNIAN INVESTIGATION: County leaders long smelled smoke in KMC's finances, missed cause of fire
- Supervisors to spread Kern Medical Center budget pain around
- Supervisors appoint interim KMC, animal control chiefs
- More KMC fallout: Loan to grow, county put on 'watch alert'
- County begins eyeing cuts to cover KMC shortfalls
"We have no agenda. We have no game plan," said former Congressman Bill Thomas, one of six panel members. "We're available to do whatever needs to be done."
Other members include oncologist Dr. Ravi Patel, former Kern County Supervisor Barbara Patrick, Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling, attorney and Bolthouse Properties President Tony Leggio and former Aera Energy CEO Gene Voiland.
Several of them Thursday called Kern Medical Center a critical part of the community and pledged to pour their expertise into helping the county-owned hospital turn around its fortunes.
"In talking to a broad cross section of the community," Thomas said, "there is real concern that we may lose KMC. We can't sustain the kind of losses that are occurring."
Last month it was revealed that staff at the county-owned hospital had, since 2005, miscalculated the amount of money it would be reimbursed by state and federal programs for serving Medi-Cal and uninsured patients.
The cost to the county is estimated at around $64 million.
Thomas said Maggard will set the panel's agenda. It will serve as a sounding board, resource and communication conduit for the chairman.
Maggard is "establishing the pathways" between the panel and the information it will need to collect in order to do its job. He said he wants panel members to evaluate KMC's situation and suggest solutions on everything from hospital operations and efficiency to revenue and expenditures.
"Our (mission) to make the hospital viable is more than (problems) we've talked about in the last few weeks," Maggard said.
One reason Maggard chose the panel members, he said, was to utilize their experience and connections for new ideas.
They will also, Maggard said, look at how the hospital is perceived and explore how KMC survives in a marketplace where people have more choice about where they get care.
"We have to earn our place in the market," Maggard said. "The partnership with the community is critical."
Patel, who built Bakersfield's Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center from the ground up, said the community needs a healthy, successful KMC.
He already has ideas about where some of his expertise -- in billing for pharmaceuticals, for example, and state-supported programs for cancer patients -- could help.
"First we understand the problem," Patel said. "Then we see what the best way is to approach it."
Barbara Patrick, who once held Maggard's seat on the Board of Supervisors, is now president of Kern Health Systems' governing board, which is responsible for providing health insurance to county seniors and low-income residents.
"KMC has been a challenge as long as I've lived in Kern County -- which is over 40 years," Patrick said.
The hospital provides quality service, she said, but getting it to do that cost-effectively is the task. That's why she agreed to be on the panel.
"It was an offer to which I could not say, 'No.'"