As hospitals reach capacity in their intensive care units, the Kern County Board of Supervisors will consider a plan during Tuesday’s meeting that could increase the number of patients who could be treated locally.
Supervisors are slated to authorize the Department of Public Health Services to enter into a $12 million contract with RightSourcing Inc. to bring nurses from around the country to Kern County to staff ICUs. According to documents provided in Tuesday’s agenda, the contract will last until the end of the year and increase capacity by about 40 beds.
A state model predicted Kern County would run out of ICU beds by the end of July, with the virus peaking in February. With an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients already being cared for in local hospitals, those facilities are scrambling to find more staff.
Kern officials have repeatedly said staffing issues at hospitals have limited the number of patients who can be served at any one time. The new contract would increase capacity by about 17 percent from the 232 licensed ICU beds currently in the county.
In order to pay for the additional nurses, supervisors will need to rescind $13 million in federal CARES Act funding that was previously allocated to the city of Bakersfield. The county said in a memorandum included in the meeting’s agenda that the state had already allocated Bakersfield $33.5 million in CARES Act funding and the county will continue working with the city to address any costs that would have been covered under the county’s allocation.
The county’s allocation to the city was meant to offset coronavirus costs. In total, the county had designated $20 million to 11 cities.
In an email, the City Manager’s Office said the county had informed the city of the change.
“Although the City continues to have need for this funding, we recognize the greater immediate regional public health concern surrounding ICU capacity and the County’s need for additional resources to address the recent increases in ICU utilization,” the email read. "We look forward to working closely with the County to reallocate a portion of this funding back to the City if it is determined the entire $13 million is not expended for ICU capacity-related items."
The city added it would be releasing a plan for its state allocation of CARES Act funding soon.
In addition to the RightSourcing contract, supervisors will also consider adding $5 million to the Kern Recovers small business loan program. The initial $25 million allocation has already been doled out to over 800 local businesses. The county said the additional funds would allow the program to continue providing aid as the state’s business restrictions continue to have an impact locally.
The county also plans to devote $500,000 of CARES Act funding toward an advertising campaign related to COVID-19.