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Kaweah Health will begin using tents on March 19 to screen emergency department patients

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

Visalia hospital takes next step to protect patients, staff, and community from COVID-19

VISALIA – A day after implementing a no-visitor policy intended to keep patients, staff, and the community safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaweah Health Medical Center will begin using three tents to improve its screening process of patients coming to its Emergency Department with respiratory symptoms.

On Thursday, March 19, Kaweah Health expects to begin using the 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's new, temporary no-visitor policy is now in place. 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.

“These are decisions that we are really grappling with because I will tell you, first and foremost, we remain a very compassionate organization,” Herbst said. “It’s hard for us, but our top priority right now is to protect our patients, our visitors, our families, our doctors, our nurses, and the entire community. We’re balancing compassion with that desire to protect our community from contracting the virus and stop the spread.”

During this time, Kaweah Health is encouraging family members of patients inside the Medical Center to communicate by video chat. It is working to unveil a program that will allow patients, who do not have phones, to use iPads to communicate with their loved ones by video chat.

Kaweah Health has made a number of changes to protect patients, staff, and the community. Following the Governor’s direction, Kaweah Health will temporarily close The Lifestyle Center, its medically-based fitness facility, through Wednesday, April 1, said Patrick Tazio, Director of The Lifestyle Center. Kaweah Health is also asking patients to pay bills and and request medical records online.

Kaweah Health has also activated an incident command center in the Medical Center that is staffed 24/7 to ensure that the organization can immediately respond to any situations that may arise. Senior administrative and clinical leaders are staffing this command center. They are in frequent contact with Tulare County Health & Human Services, local hospitals, and other local healthcare providers to coordinate our responses to evolving community needs.

Kaweah Health has taken a number of measures to put the health and safety of patients and visitors first. They include limiting visitors, implemented temporary entrances, cancelling all public events, removing volunteers from its sites, cancelling all business travel, and asking its more than 5,000 employees to cancel internal meetings and use teleconferencing or online meetings instead.

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.