Health Center News

NACHC Update: The California Fires and Health Centers

(The information in this blog post was compiled in collaboration with Emili LaBass, Sr. Program Coordinator of Health Center Operations, California Primary Care Association)

Photo courtesy: FEMA

NACHC has been monitoring the situation in Northern California, where a cluster of wildfires has burned for more than a week. The fires have killed at least 41 people and destroyed nearly 6,000 homes. Many health centers have also been affected, according to the California Primary Care Association. Santa Rosa Community Health Centers (SRCH) had one facility severely damaged. Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center was able to provide the center with a mobile unit to support their response.

In a letter posted on the SRCH Facebook page, Chief Executive Officer Naomi Fuchs writes, “Many people have been asking how they can help…. Thank you for your concern about our health center – our employees and the people we serve, many of whom have lost everything in these devastating fires. We do need your help! We need funding to provide emergency assistance to our employees, to provide free medical and dental care as well as medications to patients, and to begin rebuilding our Vista Campus.” Those interested in donating should visit the SRCH web site at this link.

Other health centers in the areas affected by the blaze remain open but with minimal staff. In areas where sites have been closed, health center staff have mobilized within their community to provide much needed aid.

Photo courtesy: Direct Relief

A case in point is OLE Health in Napa County, which had multiple sites closed over the weekend, but whose staff were, and continue to be, on the front lines of the relief efforts along with their hospital partners to provide medical assistance to residents affected by the wildfires. Petaluma Health Centers, West County Health Centers, Coastal Health Alliance and others in the region have mobilized health care teams and have opened their doors to help those who have been displaced and have nowhere else to turn for care.   Petaluma will also be offering counseling to parents and children impacted by the wildfires, according to an article in the Santa Rosa Democrat.

“Thousands of our neighbors and friends, including several staff members, have lost their homes,” said Pedro Toledo, Chief Administrative Officer of Petaluma.  “Thousands have sought refuge in community shelters. We are heartbroken by the loss of life, loss of neighborhoods, and grateful for the first responders who are risking their lives to keep us safe.  There is so much for which we are thankful. We are thankful for Petaluma Health Center staff who are taking care of patients in shelters, and working day and night, and through the weekend to meet the urgent medical needs of patients affected by the firestorm.   We are thankful to our community partners, and especially Lifelong Medical Care who lent us their mobile van so we could better serve people in local shelters.”

Direct Relief has also swung into action. The international relief organization heard that N-95 masks to help residents filter out particulates and ash in the air are in short supply. The staff, including Communications Director Tony Morain, responded by driving up  a truckload of 100,000 masks from Direct Relief headquarters. The delivery is being coordinated with the California Office of Emergency Services. “Our hearts go out to the people and communities who’ve lost so much in these tragic fires,” said Morain.  “Direct Relief will continue doing all it can to support health centers in their tireless efforts to care for patients and serve their communities in this difficult time.”  You can read more about their efforts on the Direct Relief Blog.

We will keep you posted as developments continue.