Visalia hospital Chief Executive Officer answers community's COVID-19 questions
Visalia hospital Chief Executive Officer answers community’s COVID-19 questions
VISALIA – Is Kaweah Delta Medical Center at capacity? Are all COVID-19
designated beds at the Medical Center full? Is the hospital requiring
members of The Lifestyle Center, its fitness center, to wear face masks?
Is the hospital profiting off COVID-19 patients because it gets paid more
for COVID-19 patients?
These are just some of the questions that Tulare County residents asked
in the Visalia hospital’s most recent online video conference of
Gary Herbst, Kaweah Delta’s Chief Executive Officer. “The
last two weeks, from a pandemic standpoint, have been incredibly active
across the nation with California definitely becoming one of the hot spots
and Tulare County continuing to be a front runner in terms of some of
the statistics we are observing here,” he said.
Question: Is Kaweah Delta Medical Center at capacity?
Answer: Kaweah Delta Medical Center has approximately 333 beds available (excluding
Maternal Child Health) for adult patients and 301 or 90 percent of them
are full. As of July 13, Kaweah Delta had 65 COVID-19 positive patients
in-house, 25 of which are in critical care, either in the hospital’s
intensive care unit or in its intermediate critical care unit. In terms
of ventilators, Kaweah Delta owns 96 ventilators and as of July 13, five
were in use by COVID-19 patients, with 55 available. From a surge capacity,
Kaweah Delta is in good shape when it comes to ventilators and not such
great shape when it comes to beds. Of the 191 Kaweah Delta staff who have
contracted COVID-19, 121 have recovered and are back to work, while 70
remain quarantined, the vast majority of which are registered nurses,
licensed vocational nurses, and certified nurse assistants. This is having
the biggest impact on Kaweah Delta from a patient care standpoint. Kaweah
Delta has one COVID-19 positive employee who remains hospitalized.
Kaweah Delta’s tracing efforts have determined that staff were infected
outside of work about half of the time.
Question: Are all beds at the hospital designated for COVID-19 patients full?
Answer: Almost. Kaweah Delta currently has three open beds among the four units
that are designated at Kaweah Delta to care for COVID-19 or those patients
that we suspect have COVID-19.
Question: Is Kaweah Delta requiring members of The Lifestyle Center, its fitness
center, to wear face masks?
Answer: Yes, effective Monday, July 13, Kaweah Delta requires members of The Lifestyle
Center to wear face masks when they are in the building and not participating
in high intensity workouts.
There are discrepancies in the County and the State’s COVID-19 testing
numbers. How many times does the hospital count a patient as COVID-19
Answer: A person who has tested positive for COVID-19 can be tested multiple times
while waiting for a final negative test. Kaweah Delta does its own testing
of patients that are in its hospital and, generally, it only tests symptomatic
patients, although it does test all patients coming in for urgent non-emergency
surgery. These patients are generally asymptomatic. In reporting its numbers,
Kaweah Delta only counts one COVID-19 test as positive per person despite
multiple tests. This is also the County’s practice. The State counts
all tests that an individual takes.
Can you go over the reimbursement rate for COVID-19 patients and dispel
the myth that the hospital is getting rich off this pandemic?
Answer: This pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on Kaweah Delta.
In just three months, Kaweah Delta went from being break-even at the beginning
of the year to losing $28 million dollars due to COVID-19. The hospital
is not profiting from its care of COVID-19 patients. Medicare, the federal
health insurance program, and Medi-Cal, the public health insurance program
providing free or low cost medical services for those with limited income
and resources, pay hospitals more for COVID-19 patients. For Medicare,
that payment rate is 20 percent more and that amount is based on the belief
that COVID-19 patients are going to stay longer and require more resources.
However, the cost of taking care of the patient also went up significantly
more than 20 percent. A recent study showed on average, hospitals are
losing at least $2,000 per COVID-19 patient, but more likely $8,000 to
$10,000 per patient, meaning the difference between what Medicare, Medi-Cal
or the commercial insurer pays a hospital and the actual cost of providing
that patient care. Kaweah Delta has taken care of hundreds of COVID-19
patients and the amount it is getting paid from Medicare, which represents
50 percent of our patients, from Medi-Cal, and commercial insurers, is
always less than the cost of providing that care.
Question: If a person
comes to Kaweah Delta’s drive-up specimen collection site –
do those tests go out to commercial labs and how long does it take to
Answer: In order to have a specimen collected at this site, a person must have
a provider’s order. If a person does not have symptoms, the specimen
will most likely be sent to a commercial lab and those results can currently
take 14-17 days. If a person has symptoms, that collection will go to
the County and those results can take up to 2-3 days. If a person is a
KD healthcare worker, or physician, resident, or a patient coming in for
an urgent non-emergency surgery at Kaweah Delta, the specimen will be
collected on Floral Street and the test will be conducted in house with
results available same day or next day. The specimen collection site on
Floral Street is now testing approximately 250 people per day. Kaweah
Delta is in the process of opening a testing facility at its Court Street
campus. If people suspect they have COVID-19, they can call their provider,
visit Kaweah Delta Urgent Care or call Kaweah Delta’s free COVID-19
hotline at (559) 624-4110.
Kaweah Delta shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community
on its website at
www.kaweahdelta.org/COVID19 and on its social media accounts. #