Celebrating 150 Years
For 150 years Kern Medical has been at the heart of healthcare in Kern County.
Today as a leading Central Valley health care organization, Kern Medical offers a general acute care hospital and trauma center, comprehensive primary care and specialty clinics, and highly skilled doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare providers.
The story of this journey to a premier position in the region is a tale, much like the history of the County, of rapid growth.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made in medical research, education, patient safety and care. And as we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we will be honoring our service and those we have served by looking back – and in so doing we hope to make possible greater advancements in the future.
The Early Years: Establishing a Bakersfield Hospital
Since our founding in 1867 as a one-room adobe hut in Havilah (about an hour east of Bakersfield), Kern Medical has served as a cornerstone of the community.
In 1875, the first hospital building was established on G Street by William McFarland at a cost of $1,400 and doubled as a morgue. Henry S. Bachman served as the sole doctor for the community that numbered fewer than 1,000. Today, Bakersfield High School stands on the former G Street Hospital site.
In 1895, a new two-story hospital, known as Kern General, was constructed on six acres at 19th and Oak streets. It was equipped with 40 beds, staffed by five doctors and eight nurses, and was noted for its up-to-date surgery. The hospital served the county well for 30 years, but the growing health needs of the community necessitated the construction of a new facility.
In 1922, planning and construction began on that facility, located at Flower St. and Mt. Vernon Ave., where we remain today. The first 66 patients were transferred from the Oak street building to the new facility on September 27, 1925.
20th Century: A Tale of Rapid Growth
In 1934, a physician residency program debuted and quickly became an integral part of our mission.
The war years saw our operating budget surpass $1 million for the first time. About 500 employees worked at the hospital, and the patient count averaged just over 600 per day.
The 1952 earthquake destroyed portions of the hospital with the administration building hit hardest. Subsequent renovations expanded Kern General into a modern accredited facility, with the dedication of B and C wings on November 25, 1956.
By 1961, we saw an average of 900 patients per day, including 500 inpatients, 95 ER patients and 300 clinic patients.
In 1975, the hospital officially became known as Kern Medical Center.
In 1982, the D wing portion of the hospital was completed, and 10 years later, the hospital started construction on the Emergency Care Center.
21st Century: Setting the Stage for the Future
On November 15, 2001, Kern Medical Center was designated as a Level II Trauma Center. To date, we continue to provide the only advanced trauma care between Fresno and Los Angeles.
In 2016, we once again changed our name – this time to Kern Medical, to better represent our comprehensive model of care. We also expanded to the west side of Bakersfield with new Stockdale and Truxtun physician offices.
Also in 2016, Kern Medical transitioned from being owned and operated by the County of Kern to a Hospital Authority, enabling us to better serve our patients as a safety net provider, academic training center, and leader in trauma and specialty services.
In addition to caring for 10,000 inpatients and 125,000 clinic patients a year, we are the community’s only academic teaching hospital with over 200 medical students, physician residents, and fellows undergoing training in eight residency and fellowship programs.
Most importantly, we remain committed to serving the people of our community. Our care, while sophisticated, comes with compassion, respect and kindness in a community of diverse needs.
Here’s to another 150 years.
Kern Medical. Health for Life.
Please send us any fond memories, stories or photos of your experiences at Kern Medical. We would love to hear from you!
Email us at Kandiss.Bigler@kernmedical.com
Kern Medical announced it will soon open the county’s first Epilepsy Center, thanks in part to new USC neurosurgeons on staff, a tremendous upgrade to Kern Medical’s neurosurgery specialty. Epilepsy is the third most prevalent neurological disorder, and can have a devastating effect on both the patient and the patient’s family. Epilepsy treatment requires multiple patient visits and asking somebody to drive to Los Angeles repeatedly is just too high a barrier. Having a full range of treatment options – from medication management to surgery – available in Bakersfield is a huge step forward for healthcare in the region.
Kern Medicals's Newest Technology
Kern Medical became the first in the area to employ the OverStitch Endoscopic Suturing System to reduce invasive surgery in revisions to bariatric surgery. OverStitch allows a surgeon to work endoscopically – through a tube down the throat and into the stomach. From there, lap bands and sleeves can be adjusted to fit the changing needs of the patient. This is a tremendous advancement over traditional approaches that require doctors to open a patient in a surgical setting. Additionally, the process allows patients to spend only one day in the hospital rather than two or three. The device can also be used in procedures performed by gastroenterologists. Throughout the year, we expect many more doctors to embrace OverStitch technology.
Tuberculosis Knowledge Quiz
Q. How is tuberculosis (TB) spread?
A. TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another. You can catch the disease if an infected person coughs, speaks or sings near you. When you breathe in the TB bacteria, it settles in your lungs and begins to grow.
Q. Name conditions of which people are at risk of developing TB.
A. HIV infection, substance abuse (people who inject illegal drugs), silicosis, diabetes, kidney disease, organ transplants, head or neck cancer, etc.
Q. What is the best way to prevent TB infection?
A. Get vaccinated! The vaccine Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) was first developed in the 1920s. It is one of the most widely used of all current vaccines, and reaches more than 80% of all new born children and infants in countries where it is part of the national childhood immunization program.
Q. Is there treatment for TB?
A. There is an antibiotic drug that can reduce the risk of an active disease spreading to others. It can also reduce the risk of a TB episode. The drug is generally taken for six to nine months, but exact medications and length of treatment vary by person. It’s best to consult your doctor.
In April of 2016, Libby Otten was thrown from a Jeep, which rolled over her, crushing her legs and shattering her pelvis. She was airlifted to Kern Medical’s Trauma Center where orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrea Snow implanted steel rods in her legs. Complications came later when internal bleeding forced Dr. Gomez, chief of orthopedic surgery at Kern Medical, to abort Libby’s second surgery on her pelvis. A typical survival rate for cases like this is 50 percent. But the Kern Medical team was determined – they repaired blood vessels, put a ring of steel in the pelvis and started Libby on her path to recovery. Meanwhile, the entire Bakersfield community came to rally for Libby, with #LibbyStrong t-shirts and viral Facebook posts. Libby thanks her recovery to the full team at Kern Medical, their compassion and expertise, her family and everyone who gave words of encouragement. Knowing that she had to learn to walk again, Libby graduated high school in June, walking across the stage with only crutches. After a summer of rehab and recovery, Libby is now a freshman at California Baptist University in Riverside, studying to become a speech pathologist.
Kern Medical Facts
As we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we will be honoring our service and those we have served by looking back – and in so doing we hope to make possible greater advancements in the future. We invite you to journey along with us as we unveil 150 Facts about the history of Kern Medical.
- In 1867, Kern Medical was established as a one-room adobe hut in Havilah (about an hour east of Bakersfield). The cost was $200, or $3,484 in today’s dollars. This was only one year after the county of Kern was officially established.
- Kern Medical offers the only advanced trauma care between Fresno and Los Angeles. This eliminates the need to fly critically injured patients to a distant trauma center.
- Kern Medical cares for more than 200,000 patients every year. There are also more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year in the U.S. for food allergies.
- In 1934, Kern Medical (then, Kern County General Hospital) established a physician residency program. Thousands of physicians have gone on to serve the Kern County community, California and our nation.
- Did you know that the average cost per X-ray at Kern Medical in 1939 was $2.80? Today, an x-ray could cost as much as $350 depending on your insurance.
- In 1992, Kern Medical delivered 5,985 babies, or about 3% of the city’s population that year.
- From 1875 to 1895, Kern Medical was located downtown on G Street where Bakersfield High School now stands. During that time, the population of Kern County was roughly 3,000. Today, Bakersfield High has almost 3,000 students.
- Kern Medical started publishing its own magazine, Health for Life, in the fall of 2016.
- In 1894, construction began on the corner of 19th and Oak Streets for what was known as Kern County General Hospital. It was a two-story building with 40 beds. As the population of Kern County was growing, it was crucial to be able to treat more patients every day.
- Between 1928 and 1968, Stony Brook Sanitarium served as Kern County’s only tuberculosis treatment center, where more than 200 people were treated for TB in a given year. Hans Einstein, the sanitarium’s assistant medical director in the 1950s, completed his residency at Kern Medical (then, Kern General Hospital).
- In 1952, Kern Medical (then, Kern General Hospital) was accredited by the Joint Commission, only one year after the Commission’s founding. The accreditation makes a strong statement to the community about our efforts to provide the highest quality of care and patient safety.
- The earthquake of 1952 shattered 75% of the hospital. The A wing and the Family Practice building were the only structures to remain intact. Today, you can find our Chemotherapy, Eye and Orthopedic Clinics in the A wing.
- On April 6, 1937,singer and songwriter Merle Haggard was born at Kern General Hospital. This was also the year the Kern County Health Department was established. Merle passed away on his 79th birthday on April 6, 2016.
- There were 3,427 babies born at Kern Medical (then, Kern Medical Center) in 1987. Since then, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by more than 4 years.
- On July 7, 1991, Kern Medical (then, Kern Medical Center) received a $700,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to be used to hire additional staff, upgrade technology and broaden training for residents. The grant also benefited the growing number of AIDS patients.
- In 1981, Kern Medical (then, Kern Medical Center) was recognized by California Children Services for its superior infant care. Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was also recognized for its high level of service. Today, we care for about 50-60 newborns in our NICU every month.
- Prior to 1931, the Kern County Department of Public Health and Kern Medical operated as one agency. The Health Department also operated out of Kern Medical until 1952, when its services were recognized as distinct from medical and surgical services offered by the hospital.
- In 1925, the Administration and E Wings of Kern General Hospital opened on Flower Street. Today, our E Wing is home to our Emergency Department that treats roughly 65,000 patients every year.
- In 1975, Kern County General Hospital became officially known as Kern Medical Center. Today, we are Kern Medical, which is representative of our evolution as we expand our geographic footprint. If you were born at our hospital, what was the name at the time? Tell us by commenting below!
- Groundbreaking for the Kern Emergency Care Center started in 1992. Today, our Emergency Department is a full and independent clinical department within the hospital with its own operating budget.
- After the 1952 earthquake damaged portions of the hospital, the newly reconstructed buildings were dedicated on November 25, 1956. This was also the time we dedicated our B and C Wings.
- In 1961, Kern Medical treated 95 patients every 24 hours in the emergency department, 300 patients per day in its clinics, and had about 500 people per day in the main hospital.
- In the early 1960s, Kern Medical (then, Kern County General Hospital) was the sixth largest county hospital in California in terms of bed capacity and average daily census. It had 678 beds.
- It’s safe to say we’re consistently growing. In 1939, Kern Medical had 33 doctors/residents on staff. In 1992, we had 160. Today we have 303.
- In 1939, Kern Medical had a total of 761 beds – 533 for acutely ill, and 228 for elderly and chronically ill patients. The population of Bakersfield at this time was about 30,000.
- By 1952, Kern Medical (then Kern General Hospital) had a laboratory staff of 28, each trained in a medical specialty field, to diagnose minor treatment or radical surgery.
- In a continued fight against tuberculosis, in 1959 Kern Medical (then, Kern General Hospital) installed a $31,000 diagnostic miniature X-ray unit for screening the disease. This is about $750,000 in today’s dollars. Kern County was one of the first in California to have this dual case finding program.
- From 1928 to 1938, admissions at Kern Medical (then, Kern General Hospital) increased by 305% – despite the population of Kern County only increasing by 67% during the same time frame.
- In the 1950s, Kern Medical (then, Kern General Hospital) employed “Gray Ladies” from the Red Cross who supported patients by reading to them, helping them write letters or even bringing them amenities and clothes. Most of these women were volunteers.
- In 1969, Kern County had a population of 350,000, but the county’s only morgue at Kern General Hospital could only hold 9 bodies at a time. Today, the Kern County coroner’s facility can hold roughly 80 bodies.
- By 1997, almost 30 percent of doctors in Kern County completed their residencies at Kern Medical (then, KMC). Today, we have 106 residents and fellows in 7 different specialties who will go on to treat patients in Kern County, in California and across the nation.
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