Dan Allain, assistant chief nursing officer for Kaweah Delta Medical Center, shows where construction will be done to expand the emergency department. Parking in the area will close starting on July 23 and the project is expected to last for approximately two years. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz.
Leadership and staff for Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia are preparing for the expansion of their emergency department, which—they caution—will come with some growing pains.
Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst said the two-year-long expansion of the hospital will begin on July 23, bringing up the number of beds in the department from 41 to 74. The expansion will also modernize the triage and patient flow system, he said. However, the change will also mean the closure of parking on the Mineral King Avenue wing of the hospital.
“Unfortunately, it will cause some disruption during the two years that the project will be underway, so traffic will change—the way people come in and out of the hospital will also change,” Herbst said. “So the chain-link fence a week from now will be the first visible sign that that’s going to happen.”
Herbst said that the area will now be used only for dropping off emergency department patients and for labor and delivery, meaning only 20-minute parking. In order to accommodate this issue, the leadership at Kaweah Delta has worked with Visalia to increase availability of the nearby parking garages and has expanded valet parking to evenings and weekends.
Mike Olmos, chair for Kaweah Delta Community Relations and former city manager for Visalia, said that despite the inconveniences, it would all be worthwhile.
“The hospital not [only] serves the community—it’s also one of the economic engines in this city—particularly the downtown,” Olmos said. “The employees that work here, the folks that come visit, folks here in the hospital add greatly to the dynamic and nature of the downtown.”
Kaweah Delta has the only trauma center between Fresno and Bakersfield. The hospital has also had an increased patient load with the closure of Tulare Regional Medical Center last fall.