As massive, deadly wildfires rage in the region, two Northern California hospitals were forced to evacuate patients and close their doors while first responders battle the blaze.
Kaiser Permanente's Santa Rosa hospital was evacuated by early Monday morning, the system said in a statement, and procedures at that facility and two others in the region were canceled through Tuesday.
The hospital evacuated about 130 patients to Kaiser facilities in San Rafael, Oakland and San Francisco and other, non-Kaiser community hospitals, it said. The critically ill were transported by ambulance while other patients were taken on buses.
Families seeking information about evacuated patients should contact Kaiser Permanente, according to the statement. Kaiser has also donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross to assist with the response to the wildfires.
Our top priority is the safety of our patients, members, staff and our community. We've safely evacuated the Santa Rosa medical center...— KPNorthernCal (@kpnorcal) October 9, 2017
...due to fires burning in the area. Patients were transported to Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael and other local hospitals.— KPNorthernCal (@kpnorcal) October 9, 2017
"We will continue to evaluate the situation and provide more information as it becomes available," the statement said.
Sutter Health also evacuated its Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and closed a number of facilities in the region, the system's CEO Sarah Krevans said in a statement. Seventy patients were safely evacuated Monday morning, the hospital said in a separate statement.
All Sutter #SantaRosa Regional Hospital patients are safe and have been transferred to other area hospitals. 1/4— Sutter Health (@SutterHealth) October 9, 2017
The health & safety of our patients, communities & employees remains our top priority. We’re continuing to gather details and will share 3/4— Sutter Health (@SutterHealth) October 9, 2017
more information as it becomes available. You can also check our website for updates. https://t.co/anNAtkviEh 4/4— Sutter Health (@SutterHealth) October 9, 2017
Due to road closures the hospital is inaccessible, Krevans said, and the hospital is in close contact with emergency responders about when it may be able to reopen. She said that despite the risks, many Sutter Health employees came to assist patients anyway.
"I would like to take a moment to thank our dedicated Sutter Health team," she said. "Many people came in to help, some even after evacuating their own homes."
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So far, 20,000 people have been evacuated in Northern California and more than 1,500 structures have been destroyed by the fires, which have raged since Sunday, according to an article from KQED, the region's public radio station. Thirteen people have died, KQED noted in the latest update.
In its statement, Kaiser Permanente offered some health and safety tips for people who live in areas near the fires, including:
- Stay indoors with the windows closed
- Run air conditioning units to improve air quality; ensure the filters are clean on window units
- Use fans to keep air moving in the home
- Continue to use inhalers and oxygen as prescribed
Doctors have warned that smoke from the fires could cause the young and old to experience a range of symptoms from stinging eyes or a sore throat to more severe reactions like an uptick in asthma attacks, according to a second KQED article.
"It's a concerning time for me as a physician," said Robert Blount, M.D., a pulmonologist at the University of California San Francisco who also conducts research on the impacts of air pollution on human health. "Typically you're going to see an increase in outpatient visits, also ER visits."