Sutter Health hospital reopens after California wildfires forced evacuation

By Beth Jones Sanborn
02:34 PM
Kaiser Permanente's Santa Rosa hospital remained closed with local reports citing smoke damage.
Sutter Health hospital opens after wildfires

After evacuating almost 80 patients and shutting down in the face of the massive Tubbs wildfire in Sonoma County, Sutter Health's Santa Rosa Regional Hospital reopened Tuesday, the system announced.

The news comes eight days after the hospital executed the early morning transfer of 77 patients, including NICU babies, and evacuation of nearly 100 community members who had sought refuge at the hospital as wildfires tore through the region, incinerating entire neighborhoods and closing down multiple highways.

The hospital is once again offering full inpatient and emergency care services, but not elective procedures. Those are set to resume at a later time. The hospital underwent an extensive cleaning and had to pass inspections by the Office of Statewide Planning and Development, as well as the state Department of Public Health.

"To prepare the hospital for re-opening wasn't an easy task," said Jeff Gerard, president of Sutter Health Bay Area. "So many of our team members were affected by the fire--at least 60 lost their homes...Working together, we were able to marshal and quickly provide the necessary support and resources to reopen the hospital and empower the staff of Sutter Santa Rosa to do what they do best--take care of the community."

Having been built with its own underground water system to protect the hospital in the event of disasters, firefighters actually accessed those tanks to help battle the Tubbs fire. To date, firefighters have used more than 500,000 gallons from the hospital's supply to fight the wildfires.

Sutter hospital CEO Mike Purvis lost his home to the fire, but was on-site welcoming staff back when the hospital reopened, according to the local paper The PressDemocrat.

"The closure of the Sutter hospital and the nearby Kaiser Permanente hospital, Sonoma County was left with only one major regional hospital, Memorial," the Press Democrat said.

"This is a time of great need. We're excited to be back," Purvis told the PressDemocrat.

The one that remained open was Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, part of the Saint Joseph's Healthcare system, and is the largest trauma center in three counties, according to a local report.

Ten of the 13 medical clinics operated by Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation that was also forced to close have reopened as well. 

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente's Santa Rosa hospital remained closed until further notice, per the system's website. Local reports cited smoke damage.

"We are working with local authorities to determine when we will be able to resume normal operations," the system said.

KP Santa Rosa medical offices have reopened for walk-in and primary care appointments. Their Mental Health and Wellness Center is also open.

According to the PressDemocrat, the fire destroyed the homes of roughly 150 Kaiser employees, including doctors and nurses, and at least 60 Sutter employees and doctors.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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