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New bill could put Kern Medical in financial trouble

Kern Medical financial woes could continue, hospital authorities say, because of a decision made in Sacramento.

Kern Medical was in contract negotiations with the health care worker's union, SEIU.

One hold up during their talks was retirement benefits.

"They decided to step away from the table and just change it through state law," Kern Medical CEO Russel Judd said.

The bill sitting on the governor's desk that scares Judd is SB-899.

It would require the hospital to enroll all new employees into Kern County Employees' Retirement Association, the county pension plan.

Judd confirms no one from Kern Medical was ever consulted about the provision, which he says the hospital can't afford.

"Kern Medical has an unfunded liability that's due to KCERA of $330 million. we're talking decades before that's paid off," he said.

He also said this isn't just a financial issue, it presents a recruiting challenge.

Pensions are meant for long-term employees, but at Kern Medical the average employee only stays for about 4 or 5 years.

Meaning a pension isn't a perk, Judd fears it will keep the best nurses and doctors away from Kern Medical.

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