The East Kern Health Care District Board of Directors voted on December 5th to expand its limits into the county’s northeast corner, incorporating Ridgecrest Regional Hospital and the surrounding communities.
“Our district leadership has been exploring the feasibility of RRH coming under the auspices of the EKHCD in some fashion for the last several months,” stated EKHCD Board President Karen Macedonio.
Following the board’s decision, EKHCD and RRH will submit a letter of intent to the Kern County Local Agency Formation Commission for consideration. The annexation will take roughly six months to accomplish, subject to LAFCO approval.
“The main benefit to our community will be improved access to healthcare,” Macedonio said in a statement. “We have 12,000 residents who need to be protected and provided for — and this is a critical step toward ensuring we have the resources for that.”
According to Macedonio, members of the EKHCD board visited to Ridgecrest to discuss values and goals with RRH leadership. “We were able to establish three principals — access, excellence, and transparency. We have and will continue to allow those values to guide this process.”
RRH would benefit from getting access to more federal and state funding sources.
Macedonio stated that, in view of concerns to long-term funding and access to healthcare, particularly in rural towns, her board expects that merging the resources of our East Kern villages will improve healthcare delivery to its citizens.
RRH Board Chair Chris Ellis recognized that the hospital, like many others in outlying areas, had been struggling financially. In addition to the factors that have harmed hospitals across the state and nation — rising costs, inadequate reimbursement for services, a shortage of qualified providers — the hospital’s 501c3 status meant it was ineligible for funding for earthquake repairs, COVID recovery, and other critical services.
“These unforeseen circumstances have significantly impacted the potential sustainability of our hospital,” Ellis went on to say. As a result of insufficient financing and provider shortages, RRH has had to discontinue various services.
“We believe that partnering with the East Kern Health Care District will give us a pathway to protect the RRH services that remain, and potentially restore what we have lost,” Ellis went on to say.
“We have many challenges today in healthcare, and it’s important to find solutions for those,” Macedonio said in a statement. “But I don’t think we are looking for a quick fix – we are looking for a plan that will protect and improve healthcare in our East Kern communities for the next 50 years.”
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