By TIM O'NEIL
Catholic hospitals in Northern California's wine country cared for an onslaught of patients, including emergency evacuees from other area hospitals, as numerous wildfires ravaged residential and agrarian areas in the second week of October.
The smoldering foundations of houses in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, Calif., are shown in this aerial photo taken Oct. 9 by an officer in the California Highway Patrol – Golden Gate Division.
As Catholic Health World went to press Oct. 11, authorities said the fires were not contained and catastrophic fire conditions had not abated. Officials placed the confirmed death toll at 21 statewide, and hundreds remain unaccounted for in fire zones. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said wildfires had enveloped nearly 170,000 acres throughout California by Oct. 11.
Much of that burned acreage is in Sonoma and Napa counties east of San Francisco, where diablo winds with gusts reaching 68 mph pushed fast-moving flames over and through dry hills and valleys. Other fires were reported near the state's northern border and in Southern California.
As the wine country fires fanned out before dawn Oct. 8 leaving entire neighborhoods in ashes, thousands of people fled, some on foot. The Sonoma County sheriff's office ordered more evacuations Oct. 11 as fire advanced.
The biggest fire entered Santa Rosa, forcing the Oct. 9 evacuation of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center of Santa Rosa and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, both north of the city's downtown. Neither facility was damaged by fire, but both remained closed for several days. St. Joseph Health's Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, east of downtown, remained open throughout the fire emergency. The hospital treated 100 patients Oct. 9 for injuries ranging from critical burns to smoke inhalation, including six who were transferred to burn centers.
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital also admitted six patients from each of the evacuated hospitals. Patients from Sutter included newborns and mothers in labor. Kaiser Permanente moved a total of 130 patients, most of whom were transferred to the system's Bay Area hospitals, about 55 miles south of Santa Rosa.
In Napa, southeast of Santa Rosa, St. Joseph Health's Queen of the Valley Hospital treated 50 patients on Oct. 9 for fire-related injuries; most of them suffered from smoke inhalation and minor injuries. It transferred one patient to a burn center.
St. Joseph Health's Petaluma Valley Hospital, south of Santa Rosa, treated 35 patients Oct. 9 for smoke inhalation, shortness of breath and other related ailments. Five were admitted for observation.
In a written statement, Dr. Rod Hochman, president and chief executive of Providence St. Joseph Health, praised the system's employees "who continue to care for patients even as they face their own personal uncertainty about their families, neighborhoods and property. Thanks to their courageous efforts, our ministries in Northern and Southern California continue to operate and serve as a resource for people in desperate need of medical care in these unbelievably trying circumstances," he said.
Providence St. Joseph said that 147 caregivers, physicians and volunteers lost their homes in the Northern California wildfires. Two of the system's foundations are collecting disaster relief funds. To contribute, please click here for the Sonoma Area, and here for the Napa Area.
Dignity Health hospitals also cared for fire victims. St. Francis Memorial Hospital's Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco had admitted seven patients with serious burns by Oct. 11. The system's Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley, northeast of Sacramento, assisted fire evacuees with oxygen and medications. Several fires also burned in the Sierra foothills, in the Grass Valley area.
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