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October 11, 2017

Devastating California wildfires force 2 hospitals to evacuate

Daily Briefing

Hospitals in California have received hundreds of people affected by the wildfires raging across the state's "wine country," including at least two facilities that were forced to close and evacuate patients amid increasingly dangerous conditions.

From fires to hurricanes: How can hospitals prepare for disasters?


An estimated 17 wildfires have swept across at least eight counties in California, burning roughly 122,000 acres of land and 2,000 buildings as of Wednesday morning. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said as of Tuesday, all the fires remained active and several of the largest—the Tubbs fire in Sonoma and Napa counties, the Atlas Peak fire, and the Redwood Complex fire in Mendocino County—were not yet contained. According to the Washington Post, Tubbs and Atlas grew overnight, burning an estimated 54,000 acres by Wednesday morning.

Roughly 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate the affected regions, with hundreds of individuals presenting at hospitals with injuries and at least 17 dead as a result of the fires. In just one county, Sonoma, officials said missing persons reports have been filed for more than 180 people, the Washington Post reports. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for three of the affected counties: Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba. He also declared a state of emergency for Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, and Orange counties

Amid efforts to treat wildfire victims, two hospitals evacuate

Two hospitals—Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center and Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital—had to close Monday and evacuate because of the fires, AHA News reports.

According to Mercury News, Kaiser by 6:00 a.m. on Monday had sent about 130 patients at Santa Rosa Medical Center to other Kaiser facilities in San Rafael, Oakland, and San Francisco, as well as a few non-Kaiser hospitals. Kaiser transported critically ill patients by ambulance and used buses to transport others suffering less serious ailments.

The health system also canceled procedures and appointments at the medical center and other facilities in the affected region. Kaiser has urged family members seeking information about evacuated patients to contact their offices. Kaiser's Santa Rosa Medical Center was still closed as of Tuesday night and the health system in a release said it is "working with local authorities to determine when we will be able to resume normal operations."

Meanwhile, Sutter evacuated more than 70 patients from its Santa Rosa Regional Hospital by 9:00 a.m. Monday morning and had closed several other facilities in the area. In a statement, Sutter Health CEO Sarah Krevans said road closures stemming from the wildfires made the hospital inaccessible. All scheduled surgeries were cancelled through Tuesday. Krevans said the system was communicating with first responders about when it may reopen the facility.

Hospitals report influx of patients

Meanwhile, according to CNN, hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties have reported an influx of people seeking treatment for injuries related to the wildfires. St. Joseph Health on Monday said it had received more than 100 patients seeking care for mild to severe injuries stemming from the fire and evacuation attempts.

Specifically, the health system said the ED at its Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital received about 60 patients, while Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa received another 40 patients, most of whom had smoke inhalation. In addition, the Napa facility has admitted and released several patients who had burns and transferred one patient with significant burns to a burn center. St. Joseph has also received patients who were evacuated from Sutter Health.

St. Joseph said it has already received non-injured people fleeing from the fires. Those who do not need medical attention have been redirected to shelters, CNN reports (Nedelman, CNN, 10/9; May, Mercury News, 10/9; Fuller et al., New York Times, 10/9; Ellison, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/10; Fimrite et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 10/10; Fuller et al., New York Times, 10/10; Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 10/10; Los Angeles Times, 10/11; Kerr et al., Washington Post, 10/11; Chavez, CNN, 10/11; AHA News, 10/10).

Members ask: How can our hospital prepare for disasters?

Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

Download the Resources

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