Kaweah Health reports increase in patients, longer wait times

If you don't have a life-threatening illness, doctors recommend you try to see your primary doctor before going to the ER.

Amanda Aguilar Image
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Kaweah Health reports increase in patients, longer wait times
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Kaweah Health Medical Center says they're seeing an increase in patients with respiratory illnesses coming into their emergency department.

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Kaweah Health Medical Center said they're seeing an increase in patients with respiratory illnesses coming into their emergency department.

On Monday, the hospital reported it is at 98% occupancy with limited availability in the Intensive Care Unit.

Compared to past surges fueled by COVID-19, the current surge is different because of the type of care patients need.

"What we're seeing now and what's building since Friday is a high number of patients who need critical care or are critically ill," said chief nursing officer Keri Noeske. "So maybe they need critical care or intermediate critical care and there's not enough capacity in those areas for those patients."

Kaweah Health's chief nursing officer said the hospital initiated what's called "Code triage," which adjusts resources and operations to meet the need for critical care.

"We set up surge capacity for medical-surgical and immediate critical care in our ER," said Noeske. "We have some surge beds in other areas in our hospital, so we haven't turned anyone away."

Kaweah Health announced in a tweet Sunday that wait times in the department are exceptionally long for those not in need of life-saving care.

According to Noeske, while nurses are stretched thin, they can still care for patients since many are working extra shifts and nursing leaders are also stepping in to help.

RELATED: Disaster levels: Central CA ambulances told to not transport patients if possible as ER's overflow

"We're using our not-typical bedside resources to help with staffing and care. We still have travel nurses on our staff," she said.

Kaweah Health urges patients without a life-threatening illness to see a primary care doctor or urgent care.

However, no matter where you go, expect a wait in Tulare County.

"It's just a symptom of having more patients than the system can handle in a timely period," said Tulare County Public Health emergency services specialist Sean Roberts. "Everybody will get evaluated, everybody will get treated."

Tulare County Public Health is focused on protecting the community. Thousands of PPE and testing kits have been sent to nursing homes. A mass distribution of home testing kits is also in the works, where positive cases can get a free antiviral treatment.

"Regardless of your insurance status, regardless of your immigration status, all Californians can do this," said Roberts.

County health leaders expect this current surge to last throughout March.

They encourage everyone to get back to the basics -- handwashing, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, indoor masking and staying home when sick.