Open Accessibility Menu

Kaweah Health receives grant from CHFFA to upgrade pediatric equipment

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: María Rodríguez Ornelas

VISALIA – Kaweah Health has received a grant from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority (CHFFA) for $2.4 million for upgrades to pediatric equipment at the Visalia hospital and rural clinics in Exeter, Woodlake, Dinuba and Lindsay, Sequoia Health and Wellness Family Medicine Clinic, Court Street Urgent Care as well as upgrades and construction at the new Tulare Clinic. The funding comes from CHFFA’s Children’s Hospital Program.

The grant will benefit children and families from all around the county, from all walks of life, according to Marc Mertz, Kaweah Health's Chief Strategy Officer.

“Kaweah Health exists to improve the health of our community. We are committed to caring for all patients- regardless of their insurance coverage or their ability to pay,” Mertz said. “This is especially true of children. The funds provided by this grant will allow us to not just maintain our existing pediatric services, but it will help us to expand services into new locations, such as Tulare, and it will help us acquire vital pieces of medical equipment that will improve our ability to provide kids with the care they need.”

The grant will allow Kaweah Health to purchase a variety of equipment types for use in the hospital and at the clinics in Exeter, Woodlake, Dinuba, Lindsay, and the clinic in Tulare slated to open early in 2021. Beds and cribettes will replace older models that are at the end of their use period, and will keep our tiniest patients safe. Lead analyzers, jaundice screeners and vision screening devices will also help us detect issues with the youngest population, especially at the rural clinics where we see so many children on Medi-Cal. Electronic vision screening gives faster, more accurate results, too.

Other items the grant will cover include Billsoft Phototherapy blankets for nursing mothers, allowing their babies to get light therapy while breastfeeding; a portable suction machine to replace one that has reached end of life; an ultrasound machine that will allow more babies to stay in Tulare County, rather than be sent to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera; and a vaccine management system, to ensure safe storage and access for required vaccinations. The addition of newer telemetry monitors will double the number the NICU currently has, meaning staff can monitor more children with appropriate equipment for their smaller size.

The beds, blankets, and ultrasound will be in the main hospital, but it’s important to note that items like the jaundice, lead testers and vaccine units will be in all the rural clinics as well as the Sequoia Health and Wellness Family Medicine Clinic and Court Street Urgent Care in Visalia.

“I’m most happy that we’ll be able to use this technology to provide more compassionate care,” said Jessica R. Rodriguez, Kaweah Health Director of Operations and Business Development. Having these items at the clinics means reduced wait times for families, and allows staff to expedite some processes – giving them more time to spend talking with parents instead of sending them other places for testing.”

Before this grant, parents couldn’t get jaundice testing in the clinics, Rodriguez said, and had to go to the hospital, even though it is a common condition for newborns. Now, they won’t have to travel and add hours to their busy days with their babies.

“This is how we care for the community,” she said. “One way is to take care of whole families from birth through their life. It’s very important to set this relationship from the beginning.”

Along with these items, the grant will also contribute to the construction of the new clinic in Tulare. This former IRS building is being remodeled, so that its 10,800 square feet can improve health care access in, and around, Tulare and South Tulare County. Kaweah Health requested CHFFA cover 34% of the costs of the construction, as we expect that 34% of the visits here will be pediatric, as in our other rural clinics. The grant gives Kaweah Health more than $1.7 million for this purpose-- meaning less money will have to be paid through bond issues to build the clinic.

Tulare County has the highest Medi-Cal population in the state, with 60% of all residents insured this way. With this grant, Kaweah Health can ensure all the children and babies we see get the care they require, from birth onward. Indeed, Kaweah Health delivers more than 4,700 babies every year, and 61% of them are born with Medi-Cal. It is the only Level III NICU in the county, and partners with Valley Children’s Hospital of Madera to care for high-risk deliveries.

In the last year, Kaweah Health saw 42,621 pediatric patients, and a projected 5% growth for the next year would mean almost 45,000. With this grant, we can improve health care and outcomes by expanding our care to new locations, as well as offering better screening care for vision and other conditions found in newborns and youths.

“Taking care of new babies and kids in our counties is a huge honor and responsibility. We are dedicated to the next generation and look forward to continuing our journey to excellent, compassionate care-- one kid at a time,” Rodriguez said.