By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Kaweah Delta Medical Center announced last week that it will be expanding its Emergency Department over the next two years, but that doesn’t help the daily overcrowding happening now.
To help treat patients more quickly, a temporary reception tent has been put up outside of the hospital’s normal Emergency Department (ED) entrance to receive, evaluate, and register ED patients during periods of peak demand. The tent is a fully operable “room” which includes electricity, HVAC, and various supplies. Patients inside the tent are monitored by staff. The additional square footage in the tent allows the hospital to use the ED lobby to treat patients with minor conditions.
The hospital used the same tent last year, but Dr. Edward Hirsch, Kaweah Delta’s vice president and chief medical officer, said the need for the tent came earlier and the overcrowding is more critical this winter.
“We’re dealing with a perfect storm this year,” Hirsch said.
Kaweah Delta’s ED is already seeing patient levels beyond its capacity. Built to handle about 72,000 patients, the ED saw more than 90,000 patients last year and is expecting to hit surpass that number this year after the closure of Tulare Regional Medical Center. Since the Tulare hospital closed its ED on Oct. 28, Hirsch said an additional 70 patients per day are now being seen at other facilities including Kaweah Delta. “About 70% of those numbers are now coming to Kaweah Delta.”
Both of these issues are compounded by an early onset of influenza. Kaweah Delta was admitting about 10 people with the flu in the ED each week in October but that number has now risen to between 50 and 65 cases per week. This forced Kaweah Delta to set up the tent outside of the ED six weeks earlier than last year. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that upwards of 49,000 people may die from the seasonal flu in any given year with another 200,000 hospitalized in the United States, with most of them being under the age of 5 or over the age of 55.
“Everyone should get a flu shot and it is never too late to get a flu shot,” Hirsch said. “Once you get a shot it takes about two weeks for the full effect and flu season can easily go into March.”
During this time, Kaweah Delta is also urging the public to seek care from personal physicians for conditions that are not life-threatening or will not require hospitalization. When that is not possible or the condition is urgent, but not life-threatening, people are urged to visit an urgent care facility instead of the ED. The following locations are available:
- Kaweah Delta Urgent Care: 1633 S. Court St., Visalia, 624-6090; Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
- Sequoia Prompt Care: 1110 S. Ben Maddox Way, Visalia, 624-5800; Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends
- Sequoia Prompt Care: 820 S. Akers St. #100, Visalia, 559-624-5800; Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends
- Visalia Medical Clinic’s Quickcare: 5400 W. Hillsdale Ave., Visalia, 738-7555; Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., weekdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays
“If you do not have a serious or life-threatening issue please go to urgent care or see your personal doctor,” Hirsch said.
If patients do not have a physician and need one, a same-day appointment may be available by calling one of the following Kaweah Delta clinics:
- Visalia Family Medicine Center: 202 W. Willow Ave. (5th floor), Visalia, 624-4820
- Dinuba Health Clinic: 355 Monte Vista Drive, Dinuba, 595-7650
- Exeter Health Clinic: 1014 San Juan Ave., Exeter, 592-7300
- Lindsay Health Clinic: 839 N. Sequoia Ave., Lindsay, 562-1546
- Woodlake Health Clinic: 180 E. Antelope Ave., Woodlake, 564-1800
Additionally during this time period, Kaweah Delta is urging patients for their protection and for the protection of others coming to the ED, to bring just one guest.