Kaweah Delta Medical Center is embarking on a long overdue major expansion project

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It is the only level three trauma center between Fresno and Bakersfield. (KFSN)

It is the only level three trauma center between Fresno and Bakersfield. In addition to seeing some of the area's most critical patients, the emergency department at Kaweah Delta Medical Center has the most traffic.

Chief Executive Officer Gary Herbst said, "We've been feeling the pressure over the last several years."

Over the last several years the hospital's emergency department has consistently seen roughly 90,000 patients-- hitting an all-time high of 93,000 in 2015. It was originally built to see 72,000.

"The closure of Tulare (Regional Medical Center) has some impact, but you think about the closure of Lindsey Hospital and Alta in Dinuba and Exeter, and those have been taking place over the last decade or so," said Herbst.

A $32.8-million expansion project will double the size of its emergency department growing from 41 beds to 74. The waiting area will grow to fit more than 100 people.

Assistant Chief Nursing Officer Dan Allain said this will increase the amount of patients it can accommodate and improve the quality of care. A new "fast track" area will expedite screening with non-life threatening cases that come to the emergency department.

Herbst said, "That's a dedicated eight bed unit designed for patients that arrive with non-emergency like stomach aches, ear infections, and things of that nature."

The waiting area size will grow providing more than 100 patients a comfortable space to wait a new fast

Funding comes from a portion of the $100-million generated from bonds the non-profit hospital sold.

"We also are constructing a new urgent care center in northwest Visalia," said Herbst.

Construction on the emergency department expansion will roll out in five phases in adjacent areas that won't impact existing services and access to care.

Phase one begins as soon as next Monday, with the temporary closure of this entrance off Mineral Kings. The hope is to have the project complete by the summer of 2019.

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