There is a a glaring gap in Kern County's health care system: the need for more doctors.
In Kern County, there are 1,200 patients for every primary care physician. That's nearly double the national average.
To put it bluntly, Bakersfield is a tough sell to most outside physicians and that's making it tough for patients having to wait for care.
17 News found Theresa Arista waiting outside Kern Medical Center. She got there at 7:30 Tuesday morning and waited until noon to get her daughter's broken arm examined.
"They haven't even called her to the back yet, so I have to come back at 1:00 and hopefully they call her back," said Arista.
It's waits like Arista's that could continue to grow if more physicians don't choose to practice in Kern County.
Paul Hensler is the CEO at Kern Medical Center. "Kern County is one of those areas that tended to be less desirable for physicians. There's not a medical school in the entire San Joaquin Valley between Los Angeles and Sacramento or San Francisco," said Hensler.
Hensler says even though county physician pay is competitive, sometimes exceeding bigger cities, resident retention is low here at just 30 percent. Recruitment is hard too, due to Kern County's high poverty level. Many physicians or their spouses prefer the city or coast. And, Hensler believes distribution of doctors from coast to coast and city to rural areas needs improvement.
"Hospitals in the Northeast gets upwards of $200,000 per resident in federal support, KMC gets $17,000. That makes physician meals out the Northeast Corridor, but creates big problems for us," explained Hensler.
Jarrod McNaughton, Vice President of San Joaquin Community Hospital, says there are fewer medical school graduates across the country. But, they are actively trying to lure physicians and specialists.
"We are a community that is large enough today that really deserves to have things like the burn center here at the hospital or the cancer center so that people don't have to travel," said McNaughton.
And, keeping people at home would keep medical money local and potentially stimulate more jobs and interest in the physician field. And, that could create future, homegrown doctors who know what Bakersfield has to offer and want to stay in town.
"The scary part about it is, it takes eight to ten years to train a physician. So, if we start today of increasing the training of physicians, we're into 2025 before that shows any results," said Hensler.
There is a panel Tuesday night discussing local health concerns. It's at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. It starts at 7:00 p.m. and it's free to attend.