Reinforcements remain at Kaweah Delta

Visalia hospital has been granted a 14-day extension of its troop of military health care workers through Aug. 29

VISALIA – As Tulare County and surrounding counties remain at the top of the list for most coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, the county’s largest hospital will get some additional reinforcements in its battle with the virus.

Last week, Kaweah Delta Medical Center announced it has been granted a 14-day extension of the military health care team that is assisting the local hospital in its care of COVID-19 patients.

“This is a celebratory moment for us,” Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst said, noting that the Visalia hospital will continue to work with the State of California and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to request a full 30-day extension. With the 14-day extension, the deployment will end on Aug. 29. “We have greatly enjoyed this partnership, working together to help care for our community and the surge in COVID patients we experienced following Fourth of July gatherings.”

Since mid-July, the team of 21 military health care workers—mostly from Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.—have been assisting the Kaweah Delta team. This military team, comprised of three critical care physicians, 13 critical care registered nurses, two respiratory therapists, and two advanced practice providers, will be deployed to Kaweah Delta’s 21-bed intensive care unit. The assignment there will be to care for 6 to 8 patients under the direction of Kaweah Delta’s clinical leadership team. Kaweah Delta expects the military team to be assigned to the Medical Center for the next 30 days, while there may be an option to extend their stay for another 30 days.

The team’s arrival happened at a time when COVID numbers were on the rise and more than 70 staff members were on quarantine, which made staffing hospital beds a challenge. On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Kaweah Delta was caring for 64 patients with COVID-19, down from the Visalia hospital’s high of 91 patients on July 25, but still with more than 70 staff members quarantined at home.

“We’re worried about Labor Day. Ideally, we would like to have the military health care workforce for 30 more days because it would help us get past Labor Day when we know we will see an increase in cases,” Kaweah Delta’s Chief Nursing Officer Keri Noeske said. “In the meantime, we have been working to increase staffing by bringing on new hires because that’s really the goal of it. The military support is not meant to be a long-term solution, but it helps create a window for us to get staff in place. And as hard as it will be, we do ask the community to help us by limiting their social gatherings for the Labor Day weekend.”

Kaweah Delta’s solutions to staffing challenges include incentivizing clinical staff to work additional shifts, hiring additional clinical staff, and hiring more student nurse interns. Additionally, Kaweah Delta has already returned a number of registered nurses to the bedside who traditionally work in other departments.

Kaweah Delta shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at www.kaweahdelta.org/COVID19 and on its social media accounts.

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