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Kaweah Health will begin elective surgery May 18 and test patients for COVID-19 before surgery

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

Hospital asks community to adopt safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19

VISALIA, CA – Kaweah Health will on Monday, May 18, begin elective surgeries, testing all patients for COVID-19 prior to surgery.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in Tulare County, Kaweah Health is taking a slow and thoughtful approach to opening up services so that in the event of a surge, it has beds available to care for the community.

“We’re laying out a very methodical, slow return that will allow us to continue to preserve that open bed, just in case,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health's Chief Executive Officer. “We’ll slowly start to reintroduce other services knowing that we have the flexibility to stop at any time. If we see that surge coming, we can ramp right back. If we see the numbers continue to fall, we can accelerate.”

Throughout COVID-19 and in preparation of beginning elective surgeries, Kaweah Health has taken a number of steps to ensure that the Medical Center is a safe and clean environment for patients and staff. Kaweah Health's Environmental Services (housekeeping) team has stepped up efforts to do a terminal or top to bottom clean of those departments that were used to cohort suspected or known COVID-19 positive patients during the pandemic, but will no longer remain in use for that purpose. Additionally, Kaweah Health's Environmental Services team has stepped up cleaning of high traffic and high touch areas and has continued its work to clean patient rooms and, every 24 hours, the team cleans operating rooms from top to bottom even those that have gone unused, with hospital-grade disinfectants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kaweah Health's Laundry Services team has also followed CDC recommendations to clean and disinfect laundry. Employees use gloves and gowns when handling dirty linens, clothing and other items that go to the department from the Medical Center and the team makes sure to wash laundry in water that heats up to 170 degrees – current research suggests that the virus cannot withstand temperatures at or above 158 degrees.

“The hospital is probably one of the safest places you can be right now given the amount of disinfection we are doing, the constant hand washing, the constant wearing of the personal protective equipment,” said Herbst, who noted that life-saving emergency surgery cases have continued at Kaweah Health. In April alone, 515 surgeries were performed at Kaweah Health.

“We never stopped doing surgeries. All of those surgical patients who have been coming to us for months have been in the safest place they could be,” he said.

In an effort to encourage safety in the community, Kaweah Health is also asking the community to adopt the following safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  • Maintain social distancing (6 feet apart)
  • Wear face masks
  • Clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Monitor for symptoms of illness (fever, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, or GI problems, etc.)

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