BAKERSFIELD, CA - Kern residents may be looking at a big cutback in county services next year. This comes as departments look at budget cuts to deal with another financial crisis at Kern Medical Center.
The county has asked all departments to cut five percent of their budget this next year and plan for another five percent after that. Supervisor David Couch said in the end that would equal out to a seven percent cut across the board.
Last year, county departments cut 2.5 percent to make up for a previous $19 million shortfall at KMC.
The cuts are an option the County Administrative Office is suggesting to get KMC out of another potential $18 million shortfall.
Supervisors discussed the latest budget news with hospital officials Monday afternoon.
CEO Russell Judd explained that KMC may lose up to $18 million in the next six months. That's a $3 million loss per month.
Judd said it's partly because KMC is getting fewer patients than expected. Supervisors conjectured that this may be because the Affordable Care Act is giving low-income patients options to go to other hospitals. But, hospital officials said they do not know that for a certainty.
Budget figures also show some of the losses come from anticipated revenues from programs the hospital may not receive.
"We're committed," said Judd. "We have to. The new KMC has to come up so that we are not losing the amount of money we're losing each month."
Judd emphasized the $18 million loss is a worst case scenario, and if all goes as planned and KMC gets money owed it, the hospital may be short just $7 million.
In the meantime, the hospital said it is working on ways to improve the budget outlook. One includes cutting back on staff when it's not needed.
"We've got to get to the point where we know on a day, almost shift by shift basis, how much staff we have to have working to match our expenses to what our volume is," said Judd.
There was a piece of good news according to Chief Financial Officer Sandra Martin. KMC paid off part of its loan last month, down to $78 million.