Queen of the Valley rallies to treat people injured in Napa quake

September 15, 2014

After a 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit Napa, Calif., Aug. 24, staff of Napa's St. Joseph Health – Queen of the Valley quickly set up a command center and triage tents to aid the dozens of community members who had flocked to the medical center seeking treatment for injuries.

"The team here rallied and there was a tremendous response from our physicians and staff. They just showed up and asked, 'What can we do (to help)?'" said the medical center's President and Chief Executive Walt Mickens. "It was truly inspiring to watch the team click. … We responded to the needs of the community."

Triage tent
Community members receive treatment in a triage tent at St. Joseph Health - Queen of the Valley in Napa, Calif., after a 6.0-magnitude quake struck the Napa Valley before dawn Aug. 24. By the time this photo was taken in the afternoon, patient volumes had tapered off considerably from the day’s early morning rush for emergency care.

The Napa wine country is about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. The quake that hit the area around 3:20 a.m. is the area's largest since the 6.9-magnitude 1989 "World Series" earthquake. News reports said this August's quake spurred fires, damaged wineries and historic buildings and injured dozens.

Two hundred and thirty-two people sought care at Queen of the Valley, according to Mickens — most of them needed stitches for lacerations sustained when they were hit with falling objects. Most were treated by clinicians in the two triage tents Queen of the Valley staff erected outside the emergency center before dawn in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Twenty-four patients were admitted in the 24 hours after the earthquake hit, though not all of those patients had quake-related conditions. Queen of the Valley transferred one boy to another facility in the region for pediatric specialty care. He had orthopedic injuries, according to Mickens.

Mickens told Catholic Health World Aug. 26 that engineering crews were continuing to assess the medical center for damage, but so far had found no structural issues. The temblor shook lose ceiling tiles, ruptured a few waterlines and brought down shelving, but there was no significant loss of equipment or supplies. The power temporarily went out at the medical center during the quake, but emergency power met all of the facility's needs until full power was restored after several hours, according to Mickens.

Office after earthquake
At this and other offices at St. Joseph Health – Queen of the Valley in Napa, Calif., items fell off of workstations during the earthquake.

Queen of the Valley recently completed a construction project that brought all of its facilities into compliance with California's seismic preparation requirements. Mickens said that likely helped mitigate structural damage.

Mickens and Richard Miralles, Queen of the Valley's director of surgical services and emergency care services, attributed the staff's effective response to the earthquake to crisis planning. Staff drew upon skills learned in emergency drills to quickly set up the command center and triage tents, Mickens and Miralles said.

Mickens said: "You will learn more from the experience itself, but you still need to prepare and do the drills."

The shaking of the building initially had interrupted power to the elevators near the emergency department, so staff had to take the stairs to retrieve equipment stored in the hospital's basement. In the future, Queen of the Valley will stage more supplies on upper floors and distribute them in more areas of the hospital, according to Miralles.

Miralles said he appreciates the many offers of help from area hospitals that came in the hours following the quake.Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital of Santa Rosa, Calif., which, like Queen of the Valley, is part of St. Joseph Health of Irvine, Calif., was among facilities that sent suture kits and additional medical supplies for the triage tents.

Staff stepped up in a big way, too. Mickens said he "couldn't get some nurses to go home," they were so committed to caring for community members injured in the quake. Mickens said one regular hospital volunteer showed up in the immediate aftermath of the quake, ready to work; additional volunteers arrived throughout morning and afternoon. A physician who practices only rarely at the medical center, was among the doctors who reported to the hospital to pitch in. He stitched up lacerations in the triage area.


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.