Earlier this week, Kaweah Delta Healthcare District reported a record high of 68 COVID-19 patients in its hospital beds. Soon, however, the Visalia hospital and at least two others in the San Joaquin Valley will be receiving help from the armed services.
For the next month, 20 military healthcare workers will be taking care of patients in Kaweah Delta’s intensive care unit. The team, mostly from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, includes critical care physicians, critical care registered nurses, respiratory therapists and advanced practice providers. They’ve been assigned to the hospital for the next 30 days, with the option to extend another 30 beyond that. “It’s kind of sending in the cavalry, so to speak, with respect to being able to provide us with some much needed additional staffing,” said hospital CEO Gary Herbst in a press release.
The release also noted that the hospital is currently running at 91 percent capacity. “We have the ability to move patients around and we could probably create additional capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, but the challenge is being able to staff those beds,” said Herbst, echoing the concerns of many other area hospitals.
The San Joaquin Valley has long been known to face a shortage of nurses and other healthcare providers, a problem exacerbated by the infectiousness of COVID-19. As of July 13, Kaweah Delta reported 70 employees under quarantine, out of nearly 200 who have tested positive for the disease to date.
Representatives of the Fresno County Department of Health and Adventist Health confirmed that two other teams of military healthcare workers are also due to arrive later this week at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno and Adventist Health Hanford. According to U.S. Army North Public Affairs, they’re among 160 Army, Air Force and Navy personnel being deployed to inundated hospitals throughout California and another 580 to Texas.