Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH)–
A vote of the East Kern Health Care District to jointly file, with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, a letter of intent toward integration into the district is the first step toward financial sustainability for RRH and its remote patient population.
Last week, RRH announced that a fundamental deficit between cost of care and insurance reimbursements, exacerbated by a nationwide shortage of obstetric care providers, prompted the administration to file the required 90-day notice with the State of California to suspend labor and delivery service.
RRH is one of dozens of hospitals in California, and hundreds across the nation, caught up in the trend of closing maternity wards. However, the RRH service area is among the most impacted, given that residents are almost 100 miles away from the nearest maternity care.
“Forming or joining a district is a pathway we’ve been exploring for more than a year,” said Tom Hayes, who has been working on behalf of RRH to facilitate joining the EKHCD.
“Although inadequate healthcare reimbursements are negatively impacting hospitals and clinics all over our country, rural institutions have been hit the hardest. Our status as a private, non-profit hospital has disqualified us from some of the financial relief from the government. Upon successful inclusion in the EKHCD, we would qualify for new funding that will help us achieve long-term viability.”
However, he added that joining the district “will unfortunately not address the dangerous provider shortage — which has been a major driver in the closure of maternity wards.”
Hays said that joining the district may bring some changes, although RRH is still seeking clarity on what that looks like for the local area.
“We are working with the Local Agency Formation Commission in Kern County, and their purpose is to ensure that local resources are properly managed and local needs appropriately considered. In the coming months, we will be giving updates on hospital requirements and opportunities for public participation as that information becomes more available,” said Hayes.