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Kaweah Health turns fitness facility into childcare center to help employees care for patients

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Laura Florez-McCusker

VISALIA – As more daycare centers close their doors, Kaweah Health is repurposing its medically-based fitness facility to offer child care for children of its employees who are caring for the community during COVID-19.

After receiving approval from the State, Kaweah Health reopened The Lifestyle Center (TLC) this week to offer Kaweah Health employees childcare for children ages 6-14. The Lifestyle Center closed its doors on March 18 in response to the Governor’s shutdown order.

“This is a challenging time, but we are doing everything we can to help our employees who are answering the call to care for our community,” said Dianne Cox, Kaweah Health's Vice President of Human Resources.

TLC is open from 5:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., Monday through Friday, to give employees, many of whom work as a team to provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a safe and fun place to leave their children while they work. To help employees, Kaweah Health is providing care for $20 a day per child; the price includes kid-sized masks. Kaweah Health also operates Kaweah Kids, a daycare facility for children of employees who are six weeks to 5 years old. There, Kaweah Health is also offering reduced rates to employees who need child care during this time because of recent daycare and school closures.

Kaweah Health knew childcare would be an issue for essential staff members, once schools closed in early March. However, at the time, there were other local options for childcare, including local churches and camps, Cox said. After a while, though, even those sources of child care began to close, either due to low volume or to ensure social distancing.

Thanks to the state anticipating this shortage of child care, requirements for setting up a daycare facility had been relaxed, Cox said. Other hospitals had already started doing an employee daycare, so KDHCD surveyed staff members to see what kind of help they needed, and found that a place for children 6-14 was needed the most.

Since TLC already had a childcare area that parents can use for an hour or two while working out, it seemed the ideal place for KDHCD to use for daycare. TLC Director Patrick Tazio worked to get licensed by the State, and after an inspection last week, TLC was open for business. TLC staff now can come back to work and do something to help other hospital employees.

TLC is not serving food as the site is not set up for feeding large groups, especially those who may have dietary restrictions. Parents are also encouraged to bring games, books and even electronic devices for their children to use during their stays. TLC staff check temperatures as kids come in, to maintain everyone’s health, as well as enforce social distancing, sanitization and hand-washing rules.

“We do activities in the gym, and make sure they’re not in contact with each other. They can do stuff independently and have a good time,” Tazio said.

TLC has only a small number of children taking part so far, but they can handle up to 40 kids a day. Cox said she hopes more parents will bring their children in as the word gets out. Right now the plan is to keep the service going through May, she said.

For more information, call (559) 624-3438.

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

The Public Health Branch asks community members to follow the governor’s stay-at-home order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19. This, and social distancing when you must go out for essential services such as grocery shopping, is the best way to avoid COVID-19. Cloth or other facemasks and coverings may help to reduce COVID-19 transmission by those who may be infected but are not showing symptoms yet. Even with the addition of a facemask, community members need to remain six feet or more away from others when out for essential services.

Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency advises if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, please call your primary physician or 2-1-1 rather than walking into a medical office or hospital. Your physician will connect with Tulare County Public Health to determine if testing is appropriate.