Health Center News

Here’s What We Know About the Fires in California & Health Centers

NACHC is closely tracking the fires that have devastated so many communities across Northern and Southern California, particularly the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the Tick Fire in Los Angeles County. California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency. The Kincade Fire, fueled by strong winds, has swelled to be the state’s largest wildfire of 2019. Over 76,000 acres have burned — approximately 117 square miles — and more than 200,000 residents remain under mandatory evacuation orders; 96 structures have been destroyed. Extensive efforts are underway to contain the fast-moving blaze, which, according to the latest press reports, is at about 30 percent contained. In Southern California, the Tick Fire has scorched over 4,600 acres throughout Los Angeles County, evacuating over 50,000 residents, destroying 29 structures and threatening 10,000 homes. Firefighters continue to make progress but high winds are making the job even more difficult. Communities are also under a Public Safety Power Shutoff, leaving millions of Californians without power.

According to our friends and colleagues at the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), some health centers are experiencing temporary closures and staffing shortages due to the fires but no structural damages have been reported so far. CPCA has reached out to over 95 potentially impacted health center organizations and consortia across the affected counties and received reports that many health center members had to close due to PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff. Petaluma and 3 Northeast Valley Health clinic sites are in close proximity to the fire. One site (Santa Clarita Health Center) has closed and the staff there have been redeployed to other sites. CPCA also reports that Santa Rosa Community Health Center, which lost their Vista Campus in the 2017 Tubbs fire, just reopened the site only to be in the line of fire again. Most of their staff have been evacuated from their homes. Despite this challenge, CPCA reports that Santa Rosa staff are currently at shelters to care for displaced patients and other health centers continue to provide much needed care to their communities by expanding clinic hours and staff at unaffected sites.

“CPCA remains committed to supporting health centers impacted by this tragedy and strongly encourage those not directly affected by the fires to support our health center family and communities as much as possible,” writes Carmela Castellano-Garcia, CPCA President and CEO, in a recent communication to health center and community stakeholders.

Direct Relief has already swung into action, committing an initial $1 million in cash, stepping up emergency deliveries of essential health supplies, and making its extensive medical inventories available to health centers throughout the state [read press release].

“In disaster-impacted communities across the United States, health center staff often are de facto first responders, even as they themselves are experiencing the same life-altering event,” said Tony Morain, Vice President of Communications at Direct Relief. “In California, doctors, nurses, and other health center staff are going above and beyond to continue care for patients, many of whom are among the most vulnerable. The very old and the very young, those with limited means or who speak a language other than English, these patients are who health centers serve each and every day, and that care becomes even more critical during a disaster, like a wildfire.”

We will keep you posted on developments as we learn more.

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