New Kern Medical Center CEO Russell Judd has been on the job for less than a month, but even though he's running a hospital that lost $11.3 million in the first five months of the fiscal year and is still recording its patient care on paper, he's optimistic that the hospital can turn itself around.
Judd told Kern County supervisors Monday that the doctors, administrators and other employees want to move forward, fix the problems and get the organization "where they know it can be."
There are plenty of challenges, Judd said in his first presentation to the Board of Supervisors since taking over at KMC nearly one month ago.
The hospital's revenue cycle -- the financial reimbursement process that starts when a doctor treats someone and ends with the bill being paid -- is the biggest of those challenges, Judd said.
He plans to have an outside firm to take control of that revenue cycle for Kern Medical Center.
Handling revenues and dealing with everything from insurance companies to government reimbursement programs has become so complicated in the last few years, he said, that it's impossible for a hospital's staff to handle it reliably.
Judd said the hospital also needs to fix its computer information and medical records systems so they automatically collect and report the services the hospital offers the public.
"Nothing happens in a hospital without a physician's order," said KMC Chief Financial Officer Sandra Martin.
But some doctors are still generating paper records of their work.
"We have manual systems where people have a piece of paper and someone checks off a box; 'I did this.'" Martin said.
But Judd said those challenges -- and a raft of others including the $110 million the hospital owes Kern County's general revenue fund -- can be overcome.
At the core, he said, KMC is an institution that is critical to Bakersfield and its residents. Judd told two stories from his first month at KMC to illustrate his point.
The week of Christmas, he said, he was in the office when he heard a helicopter coming in for a landing.
He headed to the emergency room and stood off to the side as the small army of people on the trauma team saved a traffic accident victim's life.
"I saw some things done for that patient that, frankly, cannot be done at any other hospital in town," Judd said.
A couple weeks later, he was walking through the ER and saw a man asleep on a gurney in the hallway.
Judd asked about him and was told he was a "frequent flyer" -- a man who regularly calls an ambulance for a trip to KMC.
He was being left to sleep off his intoxication before being released.
"We can have some discussions of, 'should he be here.' We can have that discussion another day," Judd said.
But while he was at KMC, Judd said, the man was treated with dignity.
"He's a human being," Judd said.