Kaweah Delta allows visitors, restores elective surgeries

The Sun-Gazette

Non-COVID patients are limited to one visitor per day but they must wear a mask and stay in the patient’s room

VISALIA – Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have reached their lowest levels since March in Tulare County, helping local hospitals restore services and patient visitations.

On Oct. 16, Kaweah Delta Medical Center announced it had restored elective surgeries and three days later announced it would allow visitors for the first time since March, provided they meet screening requirements.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome back our visitors and families. Limiting visitors was one of the most difficult actions that we had to take during this pandemic even though safety was at the forefront of it,” Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst said, noting that visitors were first allowed back Oct. 19. “We are a compassionate organization and we know how critically important it is to be surrounded by friends and family when you are in the hospital.”

The visitor policy modification will generally allow patients of Kaweah Delta Medical Center, who are not in isolation for COVID-19 (with the exception of patients in the Emergency Department and those having surgery) to have one unique visitor each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. provided they:

  • Pass a COVID-19 screening prior to 6 p.m. at the hospital’s Acequia Avenue entrance.
  • Have not recently tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Are not in quarantine for COVID-19 (pending testing, exposure, etc.).
  • Are older than 12 years old.
  • Wear a surgical face mask.
  • Remain in the patient’s room except to use the restroom or get food.

Herbst noted that while a unique visitor will be allowed, that’s one visitor per patient, per day, not several visitors who rotate through an hour at a time.

“Again, every time you have another visitor, that’s just one more potential exposure to COVID,” said Herbst, noting that 50-80 percent of individuals who are infected with COVID-19 experience no symptoms. “That’s really what we are trying to limit, but we will continue to monitor COVID developments and refine our visitor policies when and where we can.”

Also Monday, Oct. 19, expanded visitation will take place with residents of Kaweah Delta’s skilled nursing facility on Court Street. Residents will be able to identify two visitors who will then be scheduled during the week to come for a visit in a controlled setting. Kaweah Delta’s Rehabilitation Hospital will continue scheduling family visitors as needed for continuity of care and training for care at home. And starting Monday, Oct. 26, patients having surgery can have a visitor provided they meet all screening requirements.

“We know that there are people who need surgery, but have been reluctant to have surgery knowing that they couldn’t have a visitor with them. The decision to modify the visitor policy goes hand-in-hand with elective surgeries,” Herbst said. “These changes will definitely help those who have quality of life issues that need to be attended to with a surgical procedure.”

In May, Kaweah Delta resumed non-emergent essential surgeries and put a number of safety measures in place, of which the following will remain in place:

  • Testing every scheduled surgical patient for COVID-19, 72-96 hours prior to surgery
  • Pre-screening all patients the night before and the morning they arrived for their procedure
  • Screening all visitors who enter the Medical Center.
  • Universal masking for all individuals in the Medical Center, including surgical patients, employees and medical staff.
  • Enhanced facility cleaning and usage of personal protective equipment for clinical teams
  • Maintaining isolated units for COVID-19 care
  • Requiring medical staff and employees to self-monitor for symptoms prior to reporting to every shift

Starting Monday, Nov. 2, patients and visitors who are trying to get to Kaweah Delta’s Emergency Department will need to enter the medical center’s parking lot on Locust Street. Kaweah Delta’s parking lot entrance at Mineral King Avenue will close as part of the ongoing construction of the Medical Center’s Emergency Department expansion. The project is expected to be complete in Spring 2021. Patients and visitors will be able to access the Emergency Department parking lot at Locust Street only. Signs announcing the detour will be placed throughout downtown Visalia.

The recommended detours are:

  • For those traveling west on Mineral King Ave: Turn right at South Court Street, then left on West Acequia Avenue, then left on South Locust Street
  • For those exiting Highway 198 East: Turn left on South Watson Street, continue on South West Street, then right on West Acequia Avenue and right at South Locust Street
  • For those traveling north on South Court Street: Continue on South Court Street, then turn left on West Acequia Avenue and then left on South Locust Street

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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