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Financially Challenged Kaweah Health Named One of Best US Hospitals

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Kaweah Health was named one of the best community hospitals in the United States by Becker's Hospital Review. (Special to GV Wire)
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Despite the hospital’s financial difficulties, Visalia’s Kaweah Health has received high accolades from a health news giant.

“While facing the financial challenges has seemed all-consuming at times, it has not inhibited our ability to continue to provide high quality and safe care to our community.” — Kaweah Health CEO Gary Herbst

Becker’s Hospital Review named the Tulare County hospital one of its 153 best community hospitals in the country. The honor makes it only one of three in California and the only one between San Jose and Los Angeles.

The honors come as state officials have identified the Visalia hospital as one of the most financially distressed in California. But Kaweah Health CEO Gary Herbst said that money struggles have not stopped them from providing excellent care to the community.

“While facing the financial challenges has seemed all-consuming at times, it has not inhibited our ability to continue to provide high quality and safe care to our community,” Herbst said. “We continue to try to develop new services and grow to meet the needs of our community in Tulare County.”

Kaweah Cited for Medical Education, Nursing Programs

Becker’s took notice of the hospital’s efforts in education and outreach.

“Kaweah Health has made significant strides in improving medical education, nursing programs, community outreach, and access to quality care,” the website stated.

In 2013, the hospital began the Kaweah Health Graduate Medical Education Residency Program. The hospital offers residency programs for early doctors in anesthesiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, surgery, and more.

Since it began, more than 400 residents have trained in the program.

Kaweah’s nursing program opened in March through a partnership with for-profit Unitek College. The first cohort began with 25 people. Up to 50 nurses can graduate from the program yearly.

Kaweah’s Financial Challenges

Tulare County ranks No. 1 in the state for Medi-Cal enrollment, said Herbst. Medi-Cal enrollment is at 60%. And that comes as California’s Medi-Cal is one of the most poorly reimbursed Medicaid programs in the country, Herbst said.

In talks with California Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly, Herbst said Kaweah is considered one of nine hospitals in the state to be the most financially distressed.

The hospital lost $140 million over the course of the pandemic, Herbst said. The hospital is in line with 30 others to get a piece of the $300 California Distressed Hospital Loan program.

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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