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Kaweah Health set to welcome military this week to care for COVID-19 patients

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

VISALIA – As the number of COVID-19 patients being cared for at Kaweah Health Medical Center reached an all-time high of 68 patients on Tuesday, the hospital’s chief executive officer has invited the military to lend a hand.

Kaweah Health has accepted the U.S. Department of Defense’s offer to send a team of 20 military healthcare workers – most from Travis Air Force Base – to assist the Visalia hospital with caring for COVID-19 patients. The team is part of 190 military healthcare workers that are being deployed through the state’s emergency management system to hospitals throughout the state that are caring for large numbers of COVID-19 patients.

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 Health's 21-bed intensive care unit. The assignment there will be to care for 6-8 patients under the direction of Kaweah Health's clinical leadership team. Kaweah Health 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.

“It’s kind of sending in the cavalry, so to speak, with respect to being able to provide us with some much needed additional staffing,” Herbst said, noting that the hospital is running at 91 percent occupancy. “We have the ability to move patients around and we could probably create additional capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, but the challenge is being able to staff those beds.”

To date, nearly 200 Kaweah Health staff members have contracted COVID-19 and while the majority of those staff members have recovered and returned to work, more than 70 staff members, primarily registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and certified nurse assistants, remain quarantined. “This is having the biggest impact on Kaweah Health, from a patient care standpoint, and we are anxious for those individuals to come back to work,” Herbst said.

In the meantime, Kaweah Health is hard at work to develop solutions to staffing challenges that COVID-19 may present. Those include incentivizing clinical staff to work additional shifts, hiring additional clinical staff, training all registered nurses on staff with a license so, that in the event they are needed, they are prepared to serve at the bedside, and hiring more student nurse interns.

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