Buy Photo

Casey Christie / The Californian

Kern Medical Center.

Kern Medical Center and Clinica Sierra Vista continue to pursue a new future -- and a new home -- for the county hospital's family practice residency program.

But it will be as much as two years before the county can move the training program for new family doctors to a new Clinica Sierra Vista facility on Niles Street in east Bakersfield, Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler told Kern County supervisors Monday.

And, though Clinica would be able to claim more reimbursement money for the program, it would not completely erase the estimated $4.5 million KMC pays to maintain the program each year.

So the county is considering other options, possibly in partnership with Clinica, that could save the county even more money. The program is credited with developing and keeping much-needed family practice doctors here.

Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling said his organization met with KMC last week to discuss the residency program.

"There's just a lot of moving parts right now," he said.

There are about four different options that are being explored, Schilling said, adding that there is no immediate danger that the program might be dropped.

None of the options is perfect.

But Hensler echoed Schilling's statement, saying that Kern Medical Center is committed to continuing the teaching program until it finds the best place for the program to go.

Current estimates, Hensler said Tuesday, show that the plan for the county to operate the program at a Clinica facility would still cost the county around $2.5 million a year.

Another option, he said, would be to get the residency program listed as a Federally Qualified Health Center, which could attract more reimbursement money from the federal government to offset the county's costs.

KMC and Clinica are also talking about trying to have the program designated as a "teaching health center," which could, Hensler said, increase the payments the county gets for teaching each resident doctor from $17,000 to $150,000.

Schilling said Clinica is currently operating a teaching health center in Fresno.

However the funds for that program expire in 2015. Hensler said it isn't sure that the federal government would continue to pay.

"Some of those funding sources (for graduate medical education) are still fairly precarious or uncertain," Schilling said.

-- Staff writer Rachel Cook contributed to this report