It's going to help Health Care District build new clinic

Bob Hampton was driving to work early at his usual time, about 3:45 a.m. Wednesday when he had to pull over for an ambulance heading past him with red lights and sirens, transporting a patient to Bakersfield for treatment.

It was a stark reminder of the true purpose of the West Side Health Care Foundation.

Hampton, along with Dr. Vibul Tang, started the Foundation six years ago as a fundraising partner for the West Side Health Care District.

It's purpose is to help rebuild the health care infrastructure in Taft.

"Ultimately we will have an emergency room so we can stabilize patients here before they are taken to Bakersfield, so we can take care of our problems, so I don't have to pass a Hall Ambulance on its way to Bakersfield at a quarter to four."

An emergency facility is a long range goal, but the Foundation is gearing up to start fundraising to pay for its share of a new $9 million expanded clinic the Health Care District is planning to open in early 2019.

Hampton is chairman of the Foundation, which was established in November 2011.

It's goal is simple:

"To help the West Side Health Care District improve health care facilities on the West Side."

The Foundation hasn't been very active in its first six years, but the new Health care facility announced recently is going to get a significant part of its cost covered by donations raised primarily through the Foundation.

The $9.25 million clinic is the first major new health care facility since Westside Hospital was closed by Catholic Healthcare West in 2003, and the fist major project for the Foundation.

More than half of the cost, $5 million, will be covered by a loan from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Another $2 million will be paid for directly by the Health Care District.
That leaves the Foundation with a $2.25 million fundraising project and the planning is underway to accelerate its activities.

Even with the Foundation's help, the new clinic wouldn't be possible without a major boost in the District's finances made possible by the designation of the current Westside Family Health Care Clinic as a rural health care clinic, increasing the reimbursements for seeing low income patients, who make up a majority of people in the area.

"That radically changed our reimbursement," said Health Care District Executive Director Jerry Starr, and will bring the clinic to close to break-even, freeing up District revenue and allowing it to develop a feasible business plan to get the USDA loan.

The new clinic is going to be built next to the current clinic and will allow for expanded space and more health care providers and expanded service for patients.
It will also allow the District to change transition the services it offers.

It's still going to be an urgent care and take drop in patients, but much more is coming, Starr said.

It's going to focus on wellness.

"What we are really after is health and wellness," Starr said. "We'll fix 'em up when they get sick, but what we are really after is keeping people healthy."

The expanded services will come after the building is completed.

For now, the focus will be on fundraising by the West Side Health Care Foundation while the Health Care District works on the planning and building of the new clinic.