Kern will spend $15-20 million for 84 out-of-area nurses to staff Covid wards


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — County officials have been keeping a wary eye on the number of local Covid-19 hospitalizations versus the number of available beds at Kern County’s 10 hospitals — as well as the availability of nursing staff to handle those rapidly filling beds.

With Kern County approaching and in several instances already reaching hospital bed capacity, local officials have concluded it’s time call in the cavalry. Kern County has managed — barely — to stay ahead of the infection- bed space -nursing staff curve for four months. Their comfort zone has officially disappeared.

In Thursday’s public health department press briefing Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd revealed that area hospitals have reached capacity several times over the past two weeks.

“All the hospitals are at the point of max capacity and we’re now beginning to implement the surge plans to be able to care for the people in our community,” Judd said.

But the problem is not just bed space. It’s staffing too. Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard tells KGET the board will on Tuesday consider an expenditure of between $15 million and $20 million to bring in 84 registered nurses from out of the area.

Maggard said local leaders conferred with a medical staff brokerage to arrange for the additional nursing staff. The funds would come from the county’s federal emergency funding allotment of $157 million. That’s the so-called CARES program, which also funded local emergency small business loans.

The nurses would be deployed to the local hospital most in need of them on a given day. Kern Medical, Mercy, Mercy Southwest, Memorial, Adventist Bakersfield, Adventist Delano, and the Heart Hospital would initially participate in the shared-nurse program.

The county is in the process of signing contracts now that would fund this booster shot of nursing staff through the end of the year — those contracts contingent of board approval next week.

In addition to bringing in these emergency nurses for hire, local hospital are also transferring in nurses from other areas who work for the same hospital parent companies and they are up-training existing nursing staff not currently qualified to work with Covid-19 patients.

Local government and health officials — many of them typically quite competitive — are working together in ways they never have before to defeat a common enemy that seems to be on the offensive.

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