KMC defends compensating high-earning doctors

Three Kern Medical Center doctors are the highest earning county employees in California. KMC says their pay is justified.
BAKERSFIELD, CA - Kern Medical Center's administration defends the high earning of its top three doctors, saying the monetary figure is high because the number of patients and trauma cases are high.

"There's a big need for orthopedic surgeons in Kern County, and we don't turn anybody away," said Administrator of Clinics and Physicians, Lisa Ohlfest.

On Monday, it was reported that three KMC doctors were the three highest paid county employees in the entire state of California last year.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Arturo Gomez - $1.04 million

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrea Snow - $828,287

Chief of Surgery Dr. Maureen Martin - $753,465

"We were shocked," said Jenifer Pitcher of the organization Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government. "The cost of living in Kern County is typically low, and our wages are lower than certain areas of the state. On a taxpayer's dollar, is this something we can sustain?"

KMC said the doctors' earnings are justifiable because last year there were only two orthopedic surgeons at the hospital and each had a double workload.

"They just worked all the time 24/7," said Ohlfest. "One was always here. On Sundays, one of them wouldn't leave here until maybe 10:30, 11 at night."

Dr. Snow declined to speak on camera, but said she does not get paid a base salary. If she comes to work and doesn't see a patient, she doesn't get paid. She said her income is based on the number of patients she sees and the degree of difficulty in the surgery she performs. On Wednesday, she saw 80 patients.

"If you took an orthopedic surgeon here in Kern County that was not an employee of Kern Medical Center and they worked as much these two orthopedic surgeons work, they would make the same amount of money," said Ohlfest.

KMC recently hired a third orthopedic surgeon, and said it is still looking for a fourth. Chief of Surgery, Dr. Maureen Martin voluntarily took a ten percent pay cut to help balance KMC's budget.


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Bakersfield, CA