West Side Health Care District considering offer, looking at other ideas, too

By Doug Keeler
Midway Driller Editor
There have been some significant developments in the effort to build a new medical infrastructure in Taft, giving the West Side Health care District a lot to consider
•A major Bakersfield hospital and has offered to fund and conduct a feasibility study for a possible new medical plaza,
•The district is taking steps towards possibly hiring an administrator
• District staff starting to discuss opening the Westside Urgent Care earlier.
Those ideas and more were discussed in a 90-minute meeting Thursday evening.
No action was taken, however, and the district board made it clear no major decisions will be made without a lot of thought.
San Joaquin Hospital CEO Doug Duffield presented a proposal for a  feasibility study to  determine the potential for the addition of new services in Taft.
The district also received a proposal for a medical plaza to be built on the old hospital site from Dr. Don Cornforth, a physician affiliated with San Joaquin.
Both Conforth and San Joaquin  have become involved with the local health care district's  planning for the future at the invitation of the  Westside Health Care Foundation.
Duffield took care to tell the board that San Joaquin, an Adventist Health hospital, didn't want to displace current medical providers or take over.
“We don't want to do this to the community,” he said. “We want to do this for and with the community,” he said.
He said the goal would be to find a way to bring the medical services already in the community to one central location.
With one central location, Duffield said, the district could probably bring in more specialists on a weekly basis
A new hospital isn't in the near future, he said, but the city could probably support more services than are currently available.
“(The demand in Taft) probably doesn't support a hospital today,” Duffield said. “it certainly would support additional services that aren't here today.”
Duffield said San Joaquin will  pay for the feasibility if the district agrees to go-ahead.
The cost is estimated at about $50,000.
The prospect of a  a feasibility study is a  to the foundation and allows  it  to start contacting potential donors to help fund health care in Taft, said Bob Hampton, president of the Health Care Foundation.
“Now we've got a plan, a potential approach to show them,” he said.
The two newest members of the board, Adele Ward and Ray Hatch, both said they want to take advantage of  San Joaquin's offer.
“This is the study we need so we can move forward with our own master plan more quickly,” Hatch said. “Let's accept the offer and move forward.
There was also a call for caution
 Health Care District President Eric Cooper said the district will consider the offer, but also consider the long term ramifications of any kind of affiliation, referring to the ill-fated agreement with Catholic Healthcare West that resulted in the closure of the hospital.
“We don't want to go down the same road we did with CHW-Dignity,” said Cooper, the only member of the current board that was also serving when the hospital was closed in 2003.
In addition to the San Joaquin offer, the district also considered proposals to  start searching for an administrator to run the district's day-to-day operations,  a new mission statement and a discussion to ry expanded hours at the urgent care, opening it at 8 a.m. instead of noon on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends.