Our History

The County of Kern was formed from portions of Tulare and Los Angeles counties on August 2, 1866. In 1867, a one-room adobe hut, which was established for fever victims, became the first county hospital. This hospital was located in Havilah, the first county seat.

The creation of the county hospital was in response to the following:

  1.  The threat of communicable disease, and
  2.  The need of the Kern County population for health care.

In 1874, the county seat was moved to Bakersfield and in 1875; the second county hospital was built on ‘G’ Street, where Bakersfield Union High School now stands (BHS). In 1895, a 40-bed hospital was constructed at 19th and Oak Street, and in 1925, Kern General Hospital, now known as Kern Medical Center, was established on Flower Street.

Although currently the county hospital and health department provide distinctly different functions, both functions were being provided by one agency until 1931. In 1931, there was no distinction between hospital care and public health functions except that the hospital performed public health functions. In the 1930’s the County subcontracted and secured bids from private physicians to provide both inpatient and outpatient services to the Kern County population. In keeping with the current knowledge of the times, most of the medical care was geared toward isolation and treatment of communicable disease. The right to feed, nurse, and even bury patients was “farmed out” to the lowest bidder. In time, community public health activities reduced the need for hospital quarantine and the hospital expanded its general medical and surgical services to the population of Kern County.

Public Health became recognized as a distinct function from that of providing medical care to the Kern County population, leading to the creation of the Kern County Health Department in 1931.

The Health Department was located in the physical plant of the county hospital until 1952, when its unique services and functions were recognized as distinct from general medical and surgical services and the Department was reorganized and relocated to a facility at 1700 Flower Street. In 1999, the Board of Supervisors approved plans to build a new Public Health Facility located at 1800 Mt. Vernon Avenue, the department moved to our current facility on January 4, 2002.