The Kern High School District board took a major step toward the creation of an employee medical center by approving the purchase of a medical facility on Stockdale Highway on Monday night.

The board unanimously approved the purchase of a 2,346-square-foot, second-floor medical office condominium located at 9900 Stockdale Highway Suite 206 for $745,000.

Superintendent Bryon Schaefer told the board that the district would be partnering with Healthstat, a third-party health and wellness management services company, “as part of a comprehensive program to keep our employees safe and healthy.” The acute care center does not yet have a name, but it does have a target date for opening: January 2021.

“We’re very excited about this incredible opportunity for our district,” Schaefer said.

The facility near the intersection of Stockdale Highway and Calloway Drive was chosen because it was located between northwest and southwest Bakersfield where most of the district’s employees live. It’s also close to the Westside Parkway, providing easy access for others.

Schaefer described the facility as “turnkey.” It previously housed two physicians, but once the purchase is complete Schaefer said that Healthstat will begin hiring health staff, which will include a doctor, nurse practitioner, medical assistants and office staff.

He emphasized that none of the staff will be district staff, and all patients will be protected by HIPAA. This also means that the health care provider will be assuming liability, according to board documents from last year.

The acute care center will provide services to 4,336 employees, their spouses or domestic partners, and eligible dependents covered by district health care insurance, according to district spokesperson Erin Briscoe.

“This program is being designed to provide convenient, accessible, quality health services at no cost to keep our employees and their families healthy and well,” Schaefer said.

They will pay no deductibles and no co-pays for any of the services or drugs they receive at the facility, Schaefer said.

Schaefer listed some of the health services that will be offered at the facility: routine physical wellness counseling, women’s health, chronic condition and disease management, immunizations, acute episodic care, specialty and diagnostic referrals, lab work including blood draws, and after-hours virtual appointments. He added that dispensary services will be available at the facility, and patients will be able to get common prescription drugs.

The facility will be open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Fridays, it will be open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturdays, it will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Trustee Jeff Flores thanked Trustee Cynthia Brakeman for her leadership on the facility.

“I’d like to thank you, Trustee Brakeman, for your leadership on this and wellness and improving employee health and also our bottom line,” Flores said.

Last year the board was given a presentation on the proposal on just that: how the facility would not only improve employee health but cut health care costs for the district.

The presentation said having convenient, accessible, affordable health care is good for teachers’ health. It also claimed having an acute medical care facility would reduce absenteeism and the need for substitutes, increase productivity, improve employee morale and make it easier to recruit and retain teachers.

The district claims that other districts using this model have experienced $1 million to $3 million a year cost savings.

The main way that it does that is by preventing emergency room and urgent care visits that are costly and unnecessary. The district calls these “redirectable.” Redirectable ER visits cost KHSD $1.9 million a year, according to SISC/Anthem claims. Some of these issues include headaches, urinary infections, digestion issues, low back pain, respiratory problems and simply a lack of primary care. Some of these issues are caused by lack of physical activity, obesity and poor nutrition habits, which would be addressed at the wellness center.

The district believes that with the better primary care that a wellness center could provide, it could cut ER visits by 29 percent, saving $551,000, and urgent care visits by 50 percent, saving $500,000.