Kern supervisors to examine fee opposed by hospitals

The Kern County Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to examine a proposed fee that drew opposition from hospitals.

Kern County Public Health is asking hospitals to pay a fee that would reimburse the county for the work and resources Public Health expends on checking that the hospitals meet the criteria as a designated ambulance destination.

Since 2009, Kern County hospitals have applied for certifications known as "designations." They serve as a stamp of excellence in quality of care related to five individual medical categories – trauma, burn, stroke, pediatric and STEMI (heart attack).

When a hospital is approved for a designation, ambulances know to send patients to the hospital that best suits their emergency.

Public Health proposed hospitals pay $25,000 per designation per year, costing some hospitals upwards of $100,000.

"We're presenting what we believe is a reasonable cost to reimburse the county for the service," said Public Health Director Matt Constantine.

But local and regional hospital leaders disagree.

"These fees, they seem excessive," said Shauna Day, regional vice-president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.

Constantine suggested that the fees themselves would allow hospitals to maintain their highest level of care.

"It's important that we ensure that the right patients are going to the right places, and the right infrastructures are available at those hospitals," Constantine said.

The county supervisors agreed to delay voting for 30 days, providing enough time to conduct an audit and assess the necessity of the fee amount.

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