Bakersfield is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Employment opportunities and affordable housing costs make the southern valley a desirable destination for new residents. Experts predict that Kern County’s population could double in the next 25 years.

Dignity Health is staying a step ahead of population growth by expanding services and facilities at its three Bakersfield hospitals. Through teamwork, innovation and advocacy, Mercy and Memorial hospitals are delivering on their promise to provide excellent, affordable health care while serving and advocating for Kern County’s most vulnerable residents.

“That’s a big part of our ministry — availability and service for the disenfranchised,” said Jon Van Boening, president and CEO of Dignity Health Memorial Hospital. “We believe we lead the community in new innovations and technologies.”

New advancements in cardiac care at Memorial Hospital offer life-saving options for heart patients who may otherwise be too sick for surgery. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is a minimally invasive procedure that helps patients avoid a lengthy hospital stay and difficult recovery traditionally associated with open-heart surgery. Memorial is the only hospital in the area to offer the procedure.

Van Boening added there’s big news for the area’s smallest residents: The Robert A. Grimm Children’s Pavilion for Emergency Services, the only dedicated children’s emergency department between Los Angeles and Madera, will be opening this summer at Memorial Hospital. This unique facility is located adjacent to the existing emergency department and features separate waiting and treatment areas for pediatric patients. It includes an urgent care “fast track” exclusively for these patients, and all patients will be seen by doctors and nurses specially trained in pediatric medicine.

Across town, the new tower at Mercy Hospital Southwest is under development and scheduled to open in 2020.The expansion project is expected to close the gap between Bakersfield’s sprawling west side and demand for advanced health care services. Today, the hospital has just 78 beds; the new tower will add 106 beds, including 24 new ICU beds and 19 neonatal intensive care beds, an expanded emergency room and new cardiac catheterization labs.

Mercy and Memorial hospitals, together with their partner, the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center, are dedicated to meeting the special needs of patients who have cancer and their families. Through this partnership, they are able to offer a comprehensive range of cancer treatments and therapy options including radiation oncology, CyberKnife, infusion services, patient navigators and support programs. Mercy Hospital Downtown’s inpatient oncology unit brings patients with cancer together with specialized nursing care in a single dedicated space, allowing improved coordination of care and a better overall experience for patients and their families.

“These partnerships bring us economies of scale, rather than competing with each other on the same services,” explained Bruce Peters, president and CEO of Mercy Hospitals. “We can increase access to care and coordinate it more carefully, which increases the quality of care patients receive.”

In addition, partnerships allow Mercy and Memorial hospitals to shift focus to more immediate needs, such as the Mercy Hospital Southwest tower project.

In 2016, Memorial Hospital partnered with the Grossman Burn Center to deliver world-renowned burn care close to home. A new comprehensive burn unit is currently under construction and expected to open in early 2018. The center will include a seven-bed inpatient burn unit, catastrophic burn care, pediatric intensive care burn services and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in addition to an outpatient clinic. Currently, burn patients are treated in a temporary unit at Memorial Hospital.

In addition to the new tower, Mercy Hospitals’ Southwest campus is expanding services at its Orthopedic, Spine & Hand Center — providing treatments that are in high demand in the community. Mercy Hospital recently acquired innovative technology that combines a superhero’s X-ray vision with the precision of computer imaging and navigation.

The O-arm, a high-tech device that scans deeply within patients, generates high-quality images of their anatomy. It affords surgeons a large field of view in both two and three dimensions, reducing the invasiveness of procedures and allowing patients to go home sooner. The system is the only one of its kind in Kern County.

Also, look for an expansion of women’s services at Mercy Hospital, including investments in new diagnostic equipment, such as a 3-D tomosynthesis machine used for breast imaging.

Investing in the health and well-being of the community is a top priority for leadership at Mercy and Memorial hospitals. Through strategic partnerships, expansion projects and medical advancements, Kern County residents have more health care options here at home.

“There’s a significant number of people who have to travel out of our community to get specialized health care, which means taking people away from loved ones when they are treated,” said Peters. “When people are treated near their homes, they just do better; it increases quality and improves outcomes in health care.”