Kern Medical Center has welcomed new classes of physician residents specializing in family medicine for more than 30 years. But last week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to close the family medicine residency program at the financially struggling medical center, and transition it to Clinica Sierra Vista.
For the county, this arrangement could mean financial savings. The struggling hospital was reportedly losing more than $3 million per year on the family medicine program.
“The reimbursement rates per student that the county receives are roughly $20,000 per student,” says Kern County supervisor David Couch. “Clinica Sierra Vista will get $150,000 per student, and they have a lower cost structure than KMC does.”
Clinica CEO Steve Schilling says the community health center will operate the program with Affordable Care Act funding that’s available through at least September 2015.
If that funding expires, “then we will need to have the County of Kern guarantee money and funds to us, but yet, still at a far lower level than they have been spending on their own support of their own family medicine program,” Schilling says.
It will be called the Rio Bravo Family Medicine Residency Program, and will be operated out of a new community health center in east Bakersfield. Residents will still do rotations at Kern Medical Center, but they’ll also work at the clinics in rural parts of the county. Clinica’s first class of family medicine residents will begin in July.
The new program is another step toward addressing the physician shortage in the Central Valley, Schilling says.
“What we were trying to do the other day down here, is what we did in Fresno, is begin to try to expand the capacity of our Valley to train and grow our own,” he says.
Clinica launched a residency program in Fresno this year.