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A Plan For The Future

A Plan For The Future

Kaweah Health has a plan for growth to meet our community’s needs for generations to come.

A lot has changed since 1969 when the Mineral King Wing of our downtown hospital opened its doors. It was the year we put a man on the moon, the year of Woodstock, and six years before personal computers were released to the general public. In 1969, Visalia only had 27,000 residents, and the new hospital wing was considered state-of-the-art. It is now the only hospital with its unique design still standing.

But times have changed, and so has our region. Visalia is now home to 140,000 residents; five times the size it was in 1969. Over the years, Kaweah Health has expanded to match the healthcare needs of the growing community, and while the Mineral King Wing has served the Kaweah Health team and our community well over the last 50 years, it no longer meets the needs of our patients, visitors, employees, or the physicians practicing in the community-owned hospital. Kaweah Health now offers trauma care, open heart surgery, brain surgery, complex orthopedic procedures, vascular surgery, and advanced cancer care- services that were not envisioned when the Mineral King Wing was built.

That is why it is vital for Kaweah Health and the community to work together to develop an affordable way to replace the Mineral King Wing and expand access to care in our region. Modernizing the medical center is necessary to meet the healthcare needs of future generations, and is the primary focus of Kaweah Health’s “Master Facility Plan”—a roadmap to the next 50 years of care at Kaweah Health. The plan will help us ensure our children, and their children, continue to have access to excellent healthcare right here in Tulare County.

What Will Modernization and the Master Facility Plan Address?

The first issue the plan will address is the need for more patient care space. Put simply, the rooms in the Mineral King Wing were not designed for today’s medical equipment or computers. The rooms are small and the “pie” shape makes it difficult to bring all of the necessary equipment into the room. It is also very challenging for a patient’s family and friends to comfortably visit in these small rooms. The infrastructure, including electrical, plumbing, and added computer wiring is also nearing capacity. A contemporary building with larger, more functional rooms will elevate Kaweah Health’s ability to provide world-class care to the community.

In addition to building a new facility, Kaweah Health is trying to find creative solutions to meet the State’s guidelines, including working closely with the California Hospital Association to change legislation and extend the 2030 deadline for seismic compliance. California regulations (SB1953) indicate that the 53-year-old building does not meet State earthquake standards; and therefore, cannot be used for acute inpatient care beyond 2030. But, the need to modernize only increases with time as the building continues to age and the community continues to grow. Our region cannot afford to wait and lose the 206 beds in the Mineral King Wing if the State’s timeline is not extended.

Besides the addition of new patient care units and meeting impending earthquake regulations, the master facility plan will help us determine how we best develop:

  • New facilities and services at Kaweah Health to care for the community;
  • Our ability to increase the community’s access to healthcare;
  • Modern facilities that help us recruit and retain the best physicians, nurses, and staff; and,
  • Solutions for areas that are currently a challenge, including parking. A 500-space parking structure is an important and much needed part of the plan.

How was the Current Master Facility Plan Developed?

The current Master Plan is actually the latest edition to a process which started more than twenty years ago. Kaweah Health’s first master plan to address the need for more capacity was finalized in 2002 and focused largely on consolidating all of the healthcare system’s services into one downtown campus, to be built over time in multiple phases. The first phase of this plan was the Acequia Tower, which was completed and opened for patient care in2009. As our community grew, the master facility plan has adjusted to a more flexible model for the needs of our community, now and in the future.

In 2016, in an effort to involve the community and Kaweah Health staff early and throughout the planning process, Kaweah Health formed and has worked closely with Community Advisory Committees (CAC) comprised of experts and local residents to determine whether we can bring the Mineral King Wing into compliance with State seismic requirements. With cost and efficiency in mind, a number of options were carefully and extensively researched, including retrofitting the current building. However, retrofitting was ruled out early on when it was determined that bringing the Mineral King Wing into seismic compliance for acute care would take years to complete and severely impact patient care by reducing beds and the medical center’s overall capacity. Ultimately, the options were narrowed down to two choices designed by RBB Architects. In the fall of 2021, the two replacement tower options were presented to our employees, medical staff, and the public, as well as 20 diverse stakeholder groups for input to determine which of the two options would best serve the community’s needs now and for generations to come.

The feedback gathered from our team and community was invaluable and imperative to the master facility planning process. On December 20, 2021, based on the research, feedback, and findings gathered over the last six years, the Kaweah Health Board of Directors authorized Kaweah Health management to proceed planning for the replacement choice that came out on top – a nine-story building with 240 new beds, a new pharmacy, and a new dietary services area, accompanied by a necessary 500-space parking structure. The total cost is projected at $550 million, which is approximately $100 million less than the alternative option, which would have constructed two shorter hospital buildings. The proposed new patient rooms would be consistent with current best practices in modern hospital design, and would be larger at 254 square feet (allowing family members to stay overnight), with proper-sized bathrooms, and room for vital medical equipment to provide a safer, overall experience.

What’s Next for Master Facility Planning?

Since receiving approval from the Kaweah Health Board of Directors to continue planning, hospital leadership has been working with RBB Architects to develop more detailed design work for the nine-story building. Being mindful of the changes we need to anticipate to ensure the community’s investment considers all of the needs of a new tower. Conceptual plans and renderings are being drawn to determine what the floors and rooms will look like when done. This type of space planning is helping Kaweah Health establish more refined costs and an architectural framework that will best serve the community for the next 50 years.

The advanced designs and detailed space plans will be completed this spring; at which time, the master facility plan will once again be presented to the community and staff for additional review and feedback. A highly-anticipated part of the project includes full-size models of the proposed patient rooms, which Kaweah Health plans on building for the public to visit and see how much bigger and more functional the new units will be. The models will be open all community and staff members to visit and provide recommendations, and will demonstrate Kaweah Health’s continued commitment to full transparency and inclusivity throughout the planning process.

From the beginning, Kaweah Health has remained committed to a highly transparent planning process. Once we have worked with our employees, medical staff, and community to refine the design of the new medical center, we will confirm the cost estimates and share them openly. Kaweah Health is committed to funding as much of the new construction as we can safely afford. At the same time, we cannot take on too much debt to maintain sufficient cash flows to support operations. For those reasons, we will need to seek public support in the form of general obligation bonds. When that time comes, we will be completely open and transparent, sharing all of the numbers and research that went into the master facility plan and how that translates into bond rates for the community-owned hospital.

The Next Step on our Journey to World-Class Care

In 1969, the Mineral King Wing of the medical center opened to replace the Visalia Municipal Hospital. The outdated building is currently at the heart of much of the acute inpatient care we provide, including where we treat patients battling cancer, deliver newborn babies, and perform emergency, life-saving surgery. The Mineral King Wing also houses our cafeteria, pharmacy, and many of our operating rooms. When it opened, it was a leading-edge facility, but now the building is 50 years old and serves a community five times larger than it was when it opened.

Modernizing the community’s hospital is a priority for Kaweah Health, and an important and impactful next step on our journey to becoming a world-class healthcare provider in Central California. After decades of experience, we have learned that progress in medicine lies not only in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what can be. We know the health of our community is influenced by how well we win the hearts and minds of great doctors, nurses, and employees who will help us build the compassionate and expert team our community needs. The new hospital tower will improve our community’s access to care, as well as provide a modern facility where the Kaweah Health team can more excellently care for our families and friends as move into the future.

A lot has changed since 1969, and the time has come to modernize the Kaweah Health Medical Center to meet the modern healthcare needs of the growing Central Valley region. This is the next step on Kaweah Health’s journey to world-class care. A new facility is what’s best for our patients, staff, and community—and will serve us well for generations to come.

Learn More

For updated information on our master facility planning process and upcoming community engagement events, visit