By relocating 85 patient financial/accounting employees across town, the hospital should alleviate office space and parking in downtown Visalia
VISALIA – Kaweah Health will move much of its staff out of downtown, relieving some of the congestion caused at its own office space and downtown parking in general.
Marc Mertz, chief strategy officer for Kaweah Health, said the hospital will be moving a team of more than 85 patient financial/accounting employees out of an office downtown to free up work space at its 201 Locust St. office and removing those cars from downtown parking stalls. The employees will be relocated to a 9,247-square foot office space Kaweah Health is leasing at the Tulare Akers Professional Center, also known as the Cigna building, at 5300 W. Tulare Ave., Suite 101.
“Their current space is crowded and needs to be updated,” Mertz said. “This will provide the team with a much better work environment and it will decompress downtown parking.”
In 2020, Kaweah Health identified it was at least 500 parking spaces short of what is needed to accommodate its more than 4,000 health care workers. Later that year, the hospital added 100 new parking spaces after purchasing the former lot of Doc’s Drive-In, which moved around the corner. Kaweah Delta also added more all-day parking spaces to the public parking structures at Locust Street as well as Acequia Avenue. Removing an additional 85 cars should get the hospital closer to its parking goals. That should significantly reduce the preliminary estimates of $15 million to create adequate parking for hospital employees.
Kaweah Health spokesperson Laura Florez-McCusker said the hospital and city are still working on a traffic and parking study for the downtown area, a process which began in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID. She said the consultant has visited the hospital, toured downtown street parking and lots and observed traffic patterns. The hospital is looking for existing surface lots it could purchase and then convert to a multi-level parking structure. More parking structures could also open the door for better pedestrian access.
Out-patient psych clinic
Kaweah Health directors approved a plan this week to open an outpatient behavioral health clinic in Visalia for residents not served by Tulare County Mental Health Services. The site would be a hospital-owned, 1500-square foot building at 301 Noble Ave., the corner of Encina and Noble, across the freeway from the hospital campus.
Tulare County is home to approximately 477,000 people according to the 2021 US Census Report. Of those, 37.5% have employer paid health insurance and another 16.9% have Medicare health insurance. This totals approximately 260,000 residents with private health insurance. Statistically, 55,000 will experience a mental health crisis every year.
Mertz said the hospital has had a plan to do this project for several years “but COVID got in the way.”
A staff report says with minor modifications, the site can serve 3-4 clinicians in private offices, as well as space for group therapy, waiting room, reception, staff/kitchen area and storage.
Licensed therapists (social workers, marriage/family counselors, or clinical counselors) will initially provide the behavioral health services. These services include individual, family, or couples therapy for all age groups. Additionally, many clients will benefit from group therapy, which can be scheduled several times daily. Hours of operation can be flexible, to include evenings and weekends, depending on staff schedules and client needs.
Initially, clients will be referred to the Tulare Medical Clinic on North Cherry Street in Tulare, for medication management. In the future, Mertz said Kaweah Health will review the feasibility and need to offer psychiatric services at the Noble Street location in Visalia.
-This article was updated at 5:38 p.m. PST on Sept. 1, 2022.