A Press Release from Kaweah Health
On Wednesday afternoon, with hospital capacity stabilizing at 95 percent, Kaweah Health called off its two-day internal emergency due to rapid hospitalizations, and opened its newly expanded Emergency Department.
“Our hospital capacity issues have not been fixed. We’re still going to have volume issues, but we’ve worked really hard to create capacity and for now, we can stand down,” said Keri Noeske, Kaweah Health’s Chief Nursing Officer.
On Wednesday morning, the acute care medical center was at 95 percent occupancy compared to zero capacity on Monday, which triggered the health system to call a code triage or an internal disaster. To open up capacity, Kaweah Health cared for patients in overflow areas using nursing staff from clinical and non-clinical teams and worked to discharge as many patients as possible. Throughout, Kaweah Health continued to see increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“Our situation has improved quite dramatically although it’s still under great strain,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are seeing a significant escalation in the number of COVID-positive patients being cared for. We have close to 80 of our employees out on a COVID leave of absence putting great strain on our nurses, our clinical support staff, and our Emergency Department (ED).”
On Wednesday, Kaweah Health opened ‘Zone 5,’ the final phase of its three-phase ED expansion, which provides 24 exam rooms and increases the size of the waiting area from seating 65 people to more than 100, Herbst said. The expansion has increased the Kaweah Health’s ED capacity from 32 to 73 beds overall, but due to staffing shortages felt locally and statewide, Kaweah Health will temporarily have to open and close areas as they are needed to ensure appropriate staffing.
On Wednesday, Kaweah Health was caring for 98 COVID-19 inpatients with 16 in the ICU, up from 89 COVID-19 patients with 14 in the ICU on Monday. “Our two ICUs and our two Intermediate Critical Care Units (ICCUs) are both at full capacity. We are now turning another area into an intermediate critical care unit as we continue to see the number of critically-ill COVID patients climb,” said Herbst, who noted that just a month and a half ago the Medical Center had just four COVID patients compared to Kaweah Health’s all-time high of 169 COVID patients on January 5, 2021. “Unfortunately, with the emergence of the delta variant, which is proving to be incredibly contagious, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing these exponentially rising numbers and find ourselves feeling like we’re right back in the middle of the pandemic.”
Kaweah Health continues to urge COVID-19 vaccinations, available at myturn.ca.gov, and asks that the community reach out to primary care doctors, day or night, for medical needs versus using the Emergency Department for non-life threatening issues or visit an urgent care center. Kaweah Health Urgent Care site hours and locations are as follows:
-Kaweah Health Urgent Care (Court Street), 1633 S. Court St.
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
-Kaweah Health Urgent Care (Demaree), 3600 W. Flagstaff Ave., Visalia
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Kaweah Health shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at www.kaweahhealth.org/COVID19 and on its social media accounts.