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In wake of no-visitor policy, Kaweah Health will use tech to connect patients and families

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

VISALIA – A Visalia hospital is determined not to let the temporary no-visitor policy it implemented earlier this week to protect staff, patients and community members from COVID-19, get in the way of connecting patients with their families.

Beginning on Friday, March 20, Kaweah Health Medical Center will begin issuing iPads to patients who do not have devices capable of live streaming technology so that they can virtually visit with loved ones during their hospital stay.

“Having a baby is one of those happy moments in a hospital, but otherwise it can be a scary, anxious time when you most want to be surrounded by family and loved ones to comfort and support you,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health's Chief Executive Officer. “We are a compassionate organization and we understand that’s a very important part of the healing process, so we want to be able to provide alternative means where family members can still stay connected to their loved ones.”

When a patient would like to use an iPad, they simply ask a member of their clinical team for one. Patients will be given an iPad for up to 10 minutes to ensure that all patients have an opportunity for a virtual visit. When patients finish with the device, clinical staff will clean the iPad with germicidal disposal wipes and clear the call history.

Kaweah Health is relaxing enforcement of its video and photography policy to allow these virtual visits. However, patients may not use these devices in the following instances: in the Emergency Department, at Kaweah Health Mental Health Hospital, during deliveries until the newborn is deemed stable by the physician, when being treated by employees or physicians, etc.

“We will do everything we can throughout the organization to make those devices available and to help our patients and families make those connections,” Herbst said. “These are decisions that we are really grappling with because I will tell you, first and foremost, we remain a very compassionate organization. We’re balancing compassion with that desire to protect our community from contracting the virus and stop the spread.”

Kaweah Health's no-visitor policy was implemented on Wednesday, March 18. Exceptions are made for:

  • End of Life patients
  • Labor & Delivery/NICU/Pediatric patients
  • Dementia/developmentally delayed patients

If an exception is made for a visitor (must be the same visitor throughout the patient’s stay), they must pass a temperature and respiratory infection screening. Family and loved ones looking for patients can call 559-624-2000 for patient updates.

On Friday, March 20, Kaweah Health expects to begin using three tents to help screen patients who show up to its Emergency Department. Two of the tents are fully operable "rooms" and includes electricity, HVAC, various supplies. They are well-lit, rain-proof and were previously used to expand ED waiting areas during cold and flu seasons.

ED staff will use one tent to triage all patients who come to the ED, but will use a second tent to isolate patients with respiratory symptoms. Hospital staff will use the third, smaller tent, to collect a specimen, a nasal swab, from individuals who meet criteria for COVID-19 testing. Patients can then put on a face mask and drive home to self-isolate until they get their results from the County. Testing itself is not done at Kaweah Health, but specimens are sent to the Tulare County Public Health Laboratory, which conducts testing to determine whether an individual is positive for COVID-19.

“Obviously, there will be those patients who need immediate treatment - we still have heart attacks, strokes, traumas and they will come right in, but everything else will come through the tents,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health’s Chief Executive Officer. “We’re trying to protect our community from contracting the virus and stop the spread. This is spreading rapidly and you see across the nation hospitals are locking down for protection.”

Kaweah Health will continue to share COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at, via media statements, and on its social media accounts.

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.