Kern River Valley residents will decide on the fate of the only hospital in the valley.
In November, an $82 annual parcel tax will be on the ballot of those that live within the 450 square miles of the Kern Valley Healthcare District surround the hospital. Officials from Kern Valley Hospital say the parcel tax must pass in order for the only emergency medical services in the valley to continue.
KVHD CEO Tim McGlew says it's critical for the hospital to remain open since the next closest hospitals are in Bakersfield and Ridgecrest.
“Many times that this community gets cut off from Bakersfield," said McGlew. "Gets cut off even from Ridgecrest because of rock slides, because of fires.”
According to McGlew, SB 1953 requires California hospitals to bring buildings up to seismic code by 2030.
Because Kern Valley Hospital is public with a board elected by the public, they are able to turn to the community for funding for the state mandated renovation. This month, the board voted unanimously to put the $82 annual parcel tax on the November ballot to pay for upgrades that must be made to the building, allowing it to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. If the upgrades are not completed by 2030, the hospital cannot continue to operate.
“The state will no longer approve your license," said McGlew. "They would just let your license close and basically it would just close the facility. Which means we have no more hospital services available up here in the valley.”
KVHD has been trying to get a version of the parcel tax passed since 2006 and failed multiple times. Teh most recent attempt in June 2018.
“For anyone to have to reach into their pocket and pull money out to support a hospital. That is always a difficult decision for them," said McGlew. “When we have talked to the community, they understand and supports it one hundred percent. The issue, like I said, has always been their need to pay for that.”
This time around, the project cost has been trimmed from $58 million to a $28 million cost to the community. The new cost breaks down to $82 per parcel annually.
McGlew says this version of the parcel tax has been trimmed down to the bare minimum. The plan even includes moving administration offices into trailers in a dirt lot across the street to cut costs.
“What we are actually doing is rebuilding the hospital from the inside out. The point is is we are not looking at going out and new construction," said McGlew. "We are actually using the existing walls and so forth and building the internal walls to try and keep the cost down.”
McGlew says he is optimistic what he calls a minimal remodel will be enough to get the two-third required vote.
“Just the basics that’s all we can do,” he said.
Otherwise McGlew says voters can expect to see the parcel appear on their ballot until it passes or until the hospital is forced to close their doors.
“That will be what it comes down to," he said. "I mean as long as the administration is here and our board, we are going to continue to fight for this hospital and make sure that these resources are available.”
KVHD says they plan to hold community information meetings leading up to the November election.
For more information on the parcel tax, visit KVHD's website.