As thousands of residents fled massive wildfires in Northern California, hospitals worked diligently to keep their patients safe.
At least 15 were killed and 1,500 structures were destroyed in a series of wildfires that affected several counties, including Napa and Sonoma on Monday. At least two hospitals were included among the 20,000 locals who were forced to evacuate as the fire barreled over 73,000 acres of land.
Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa medical center released a statement explaining that the evacuation of “approximately 130 patients from the Santa Rosa medical center was successfully completed by 6 a.m. Monday due to fires burning in the area.” Patients were moved to Kaiser Permanente centers in San Rafael, San Francisco, and Oakland, as well. The dramatic evacuation of a patient was captured by ABC 7 while reporter Amy Hollyfield spoke live in the foreground.
“It was getting smoky inside the hospital,” recalled Renina Ndegwa, a Kaiser patient care technician. Other accounts noted that the fires raged in full view of the patients’ windows.
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital also evacuated, moving 70 patients in preparation for the worst. But while the two hospitals were able to get their patients to safety, other medical centers faced a more difficult situation.
“If we can keep them here and limit that stress and they’re safe, then that’s what we’re going to do,” said Matthew Matthiessen, interim CEO of John C. Fremont Healthcare District in Mariposa. According to Matthiessen, evacuation was not necessarily the safest choice for the hospital’s 14 patients, most of which are older adults. Moving them might endanger their health.
Christabel Duah contributed to this story.