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Casey Christie / The Californian

Kern Medical Center.

Kern County supervisors, calling the current budget for Kern Medical Center "vacuous," directed County Administrative Officer John Nilon Monday to rebuild a real budget for the county hospital.

Supervisor Mick Gleason started the discussion by asking KMC Chief Financial Officer Sandra Martin why some monthly budget line items were coming in as much as 5,000 percent over or under.

"It leads me to believe that the budget we have is almost meaningless," Gleason said.

Martin said she couldn't comment about the usefulness of the budget. But she said it seems that previous budget officials at KMC simply took the hospital's annual budget and divided it by 12 to get monthly budgets.

Supervisor Zack Scrivner said that is a trend with the hospital's previous financial managers.

Kern Medical Center is in crisis because financial managers mis-estimated the amount of money the hospital would be reimbursed annually for serving Medi-Cal and indigent patients by millions of dollars since 2005. Supervisors fired CEO Paul Hensler in September after the problems came to light.

Nilon, who is doubling as the acting chief executive officer at KMC, said the hospital's budget has long been the county's most "sketchy."

Supervisor Mike Maggard said the county simply can't wait until next summer for a new budget to be drafted for KMC.

Supervisors have to have a real spending plan against which to measure the hospital's financial performance, he said.

"I can live with the hospital losing money," Maggard said. "I just have to know what an acceptable level of loss is."

Martin said she and her staff have placed little confidence in the budget's value and -- as they searched for ways to cut costs -- have directed KMC staff to reduce spending based on what their current spending is.