Victory for Kern Residents Fighting to Save Family Medicine Program

Kern Medical Center Family Medicine Residents

CIR Members at Kern Medical Center packed a meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors that took place at KernMedical Center. The main agenda item was discussion regarding the unilateral decision made by the hospital CEO Paul Hensler to suspend recruitment of Family Medicine intern and resident physicians, ultimately dooming the program to subsequent closure.

The Family Medicine program is the only one of that specialty in Kern County—the largest County in California. The 18 resident physicians serve the uninsured population of Kern and half of the graduates stay in the community as attending physicians. They see about 36,800 patients a year at both Kern Medical Center and Sagebrush Outpatient clinic. Residents decried the decision of CEO Hensler, which would put patient lives in jeopardy. “If you want to save costs, don’t cut primary care,” stated Dr. Rocky Chavez, Chief Resident of Family Medicine and CIR member.

Kern Residents with Dolores Huerta

CIR residents have been organizing around the issue a mere three weeks, but in this short time, held several all-resident meetings, collected petitions and legal testimonies, organized a contingent to meet with the Board of Supervisors, and did media outreach. At yesterday’s meeting, CIR residents designated speakers from all residency programs at KMC – residents and attendings – as well as patients, ancillary staff, alumni, and community advocates.

The CIR residents pointed to the importance of Family Medicine and their commitment as primary care physicians to keeping Kern County healthy. “We chose Kern Medical Center to serve this community,” said Dr. Terence Chan, CIR Leader and Family Medicine resident in his open comment.

After lengthy discussion, the Kern Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to 1) Guarantee that all current residents will complete their 3-year training at KMC and 2) Fill all Family Medicine resident physician slots 2012-2013. It was a victory for CIR and for the Kern County community!

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