Kaweah Health Calls Code Triage for COVID-19

A press release from Kaweah Health

Kaweah Health, which has the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the State, called its second internal disaster, known as a Code Triage, in less than three months today.  The emergency was called because Kaweah Health has more than 50 admitted patients waiting for a open bed to become available and an additional 60 patients seeking care in the Emergency Department (ED).

A Code Triage is a disaster or problem that may affect the hospital and/or the patients and puts Kaweah Health at a heightened level of crisis preparedness so that the healthcare system is better positioned to respond to emergencies.

On Wednesday as of 3 p.m., there were 368 inpatients being cared for in the downtown medical center and zero beds available for additional patients needing hospitalization. There were 111 patients seeking care in the ED, 51 of which were admitted and waiting for beds and 60 of which were waiting to be seen or being evaluated by our emergency providers. Elsewhere in the Medical Center, patients are being cared for in overflow areas using nursing staff from other clinical and non-clinical teams.

“We live in an area where normally there are a high number of hospitalizations due to chronic illness and high medical needs. Additionally, we have the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the State and there just isn’t enough room for everyone,” said Keri Noeske, Kaweah Health Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer. “We continue to reach out to the State for assistance and we’re asking other local area hospitals if they can accept transfers.”  Kaweah Health has been asking the State for continued staffing support for more than a week, and is also seeking State assistance to transfer patients to other hospitals.

Kaweah Health is still accepting patients, but is significantly impacted. Wait times in the ED are exceptionally long, particularly for patients who are not in need of life-saving care. Community members are highly encouraged to seek care from their primary care physicians or Kaweah Health’s Urgent Care Centers for non life-threatening illnesses and injuries before seeking care in the Emergency Department.

“When coupled with staffing shortages, this intense patient demand is putting a significant strain on our organization,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health Chief Executive Officer. “Declaring an internal disaster mobilizes our resources and initiates our Incident Command Center.”

COVID-19 hospitalizations are very different in other areas of the State, particularly in counties with higher vaccination rates. Tulare County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the State (45th out of 58 counties), with 46.40 percent of the population fully vaccinated. In areas where there are high vaccination rates, hospitalizations are much lower. For example, there were 20 COVID patients at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), in a county whose vaccination rate was 76 percent. In Santa Clara County where 73.3 percent of the population is vaccinated, there were 29 COVID hospitalizations at Stanford Medical Center. And in Los Angeles County, where the vaccination rate is 72 percent, UCLA has nine COVID patients and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had 13 COVID patients.

Kaweah Health has contacted other hospitals throughout the State to assess their capacities and request assistance transferring patients to their facilities for care. All hospitals in our region are reporting similar situations and have limited room to take additional patients.

Kaweah Health Urgent Care Site Hours and locations are as follows:

Court Street – 1633 South Court Street, Visalia, 93277

Daily 8:00 a.m. -10:00 p.m.

Demaree – 3600 West Flagstaff Ave., Visalia, 93291

M-F 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The surge continues to evolve. For the latest COVID-19 information, visit www.kaweahhealth.org/COVID19 or follow Kaweah Health on social media. @kaweahhealth.

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