BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – COVID-19 left a trail of misery across the country two years ago, killing, impairing or disabling millions. The virus had a profound impact on the healthcare industry as well, as the management of Bakersfield Heart Hospital can attest.

The 24-year-old medical facility specializing in cardiac care was hit hard financially during the pandemic and nine months after it was forced to lay off 114 employees.

The owners of the hospital and a group of local physicians took the only step they felt they could take to save the hospital’s 300 remaining jobs and that was a transfer of ownership.

Roseville-based Adventist Health has acquired Bakersfield Heart Hospital for a nominal sum on the promise Adventist will preserve as many of those jobs as possible.

The acquisition became official on June 1 and the heart hospital remained open for business throughout the transition.

Jason Wells, President of the Adventist Health of Central California Network which runs hospitals in Bakersfield, Delano and Tehachapi, said Adventist began seriously considering the acquisition in April.

“There are nearly 300 team members here at the heart hospital,” Wells said. “Many of them have been here since the beginning – an incredibly dedicated team. So welcoming them into the Adventist family, helping them grow, continuing their career, and really just continuing to elevate care across Kern County and beyond, it’s an honor to partner with this team.”

Dr. Brij Bhambi, Chief of Staff and Former Managing Partner of the Bakersfield Heart Hospital, said it was difficult to hand over something he nurtured for more than two decades, but he knows it was for the best.

“A boutique hospital does not survive in the current environment,” Bhambi said. “After long conversations with both Dignity [Health] and Adventist [Health], we came to a conclusion only a system could help the community sustain the hospital because the revenue model  – the contracting, the purchasing power, economies of scale – are all aligned when a system is behind a hospital.”

Bhambi said he had conversations about selling the hospital as long ago as 2012. 

He is hopeful that, under Adventist Health, Bakersfield Heart Hospital will be able to restore previously lost jobs, return to its 400-person staffing level and continue to serve the community.