TAFT, Calif. (KERO) — 40 minutes by car. That is the drive those in Taft often have to make just to get the healthcare they need. That’s why Kern medical providers are going beyond the medical needs of the community to make sure patients get through these doors.
Those with Medicaid or MediCal in the outlying areas of Kern County sometimes struggle to find the health care they need. That’s why a $14 million dollar investment is focused on removing barriers for patients across the county who are seeking health care.
Ryan Schultz, Executive Director of Westside Health Care District in Taft, says the everyday struggle of the health care industry in rural communities is having to do more with less.
“We don’t have a lot of the same access to whether it is staffing, health care providers, or support staff,” said Schultz. The investment will help allow centers like the one Schultz runs to increase staff in their program, or build new clinics like they are doing in Weedpatch.
Trish Montes lives in Taft and is one of the 80 patients enrolled in the Enhanced Medical Care program from Kern Health Systems. A bad case of covid left her with a slew of health problems, and when transportation became an issue for her, the program stepped in.
“I can’t take my car to Bakersfield four to five times a week,” said Montes. “I can’t afford $400 dollars a month in gas. I was taking the transportation that Kern Family is giving. I was taking that transportation to Bakersfield and home just to get to therapy.”
Aside from transportation, the program removes other social barriers like security daycare or a translator if that is preventing someone from seeking medical care. Emily Duran, CEO of Kern Health System explains that the program is taking a holistic approach.
“They need access to several specialists, not just one, and they are in and out of the hospital, so we dispatch a team,” said Duran. “We partner with community providers and they have a team that includes nurses, social workers, and community heath workers.”
Duran says the money will also be used to expand their recuperative and respite care, adding that the program is geared toward rural communities and those with MediCal, which in Kern County is over 340,000 people.
They are also using the money to build new infrastructure like a new clinic in Weedpatch with Good Samaritan Hospital.
General Surgeon at Good Samaritan, Dr. Ravi Kapadia, works with many of those the program on a daily basis. He says the funds will be critical as they are receiving hundreds of new applicants for the program lately.
"It is a way to get those under-served in our community through the door to the health care they need," said Dr. Kapadia.
Meanwhile, in Taft, the EMC Program has been running for a year. Schultz says that as the only medical provider open past 5:00 pm and on weekends, the program has been able to provide him funding to hire four health care providers instead of two, and residents are grateful.
“Very, very helpful,” said Trish Montes. “I am glad that they are getting this extra money to be able to do for the other communities what really does need to be done. It does.”
The money is a one-time fund, but the Kern Health System is currently working on plans to make these programs sustainable even after the fund is spent.