nursing and respiratory teams wearing masks

The Year of the Pandemic: NorthBay’s Journey

respiratory therapy group

Without a doubt, 2020 will be remembered as the Year of the Pandemic.

COVID-19 dominated headlines around the world, leaving a trail of death and despair. Solano County, not immune, recorded more than 19,000 cases and nearly 100 deaths by Dec. 31, 2020.

Through it all, NorthBay Healthcare kept its focus on delivering compassionate care and advanced medicine to the community. To do so, the team pulled together, stayed on top of ever-changing guidelines, stretched limited resources and got creative in delivering care in safe and convenient ways to patients who were, at times, fearful of any contact.

respiratory therapy group

NorthBay VacaValley Hospital was at the forefront of the pandemic in February, when it treated what was later identified as the first patient known to contract the virus through community spread. What followed was an all-out effort by NorthBay to reach everyone who might have possibly been in contact with the patient during a four-day stay.

In 48 hours, 24 NorthBay leaders reached 230 individuals — employees, providers, patients and visitors — instructing them to quarantine and get tested. In all, two employees and a physician tested positive, but later recovered and returned to work.

NorthBay’s first brush with the virus actually occurred in January, when Travis Air Force Base housed hundreds of U.S. Embassy workers and families who were evacuated from China. NorthBay Medical Center was deemed the destination hospital for patients in the quarantine and later cruise ship passengers. During this time, NorthBay’s team worked closely with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and Solano Public Health, developing safety protocols that are now used throughout the world.

covid test swabs

In March, NorthBay moved forward with plans to open its NorthBay Urgent Care Center in Fairfield, a move that was critical during the pandemic. Both the Fairfield and Vacaville centers became testing hubs for outpatients. NorthBay shared its knowledge with local convalescent hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, teaching them how to test their employees and residents.

NorthBay invested in new equipment for its hospital labs, further expanding testing capabilities.

NorthBay was already piloting a video visit program with some of its physicians, but when the pandemic hit full force, 70-plus providers were equipped and trained in just over a week. In addition, a number of physicians used video messages to share helpful tips and information with their patients on “Doc Talk Live” lectures became Facebook Live chats, and a bi-weekly COVID chat with NorthBay’s Chief Medical Officer Seth Kaufman, M.D., was established as an ongoing source for the latest information on the virus, testing and treatments for patients and the community,

Dr next to testing equipment on table

NorthBay realized early on that its most vulnerable patients — those 65 and up and those with high-risk medical conditions — needed a little TLC. They gathered a group of nurses and started making phone calls — more than 4,500 in all. In some cases, the nurses actually made house calls, delivering everything from oxygen tanks and medicine to toilet paper and paper towels.

When delivery of care was a challenge, several departments turned to drive-through clinics. In March, the Coumadin Clinic started drive-through testing. In May, a team of nurses at the Ambulatory Surgery Center piloted a program to clear patients for elective surgery with a drive-through COVID-19 test. It worked, and was continued. And when flu season rolled around, a curb-side vaccine clinic was offered so patients didn’t need to leave their vehicle.

“The ability to accomplish so much when facing such odds was only possible because every member of the 2,600-member team was dedicated to delivering care, the NorthBay Way,” said B. Konard Jones, president and CEO. “From the frontline nurses to the administration teams, NorthBay’s workforce was all in.”

covid slideshow

Nowhere was it more evident than when first doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in mid-December. NorthBay quickly coordinated vaccination clinics for its employees and community partners, including Emergency Medical Services employees and first responders and began to plan for a rollout to patients in January.

“Our year was filled with stories of courage and commitment; an understanding of the big picture and an appreciation for details; hard work, lots of research and always a dedication to our patients,” said Konard. “No one is sorry to see the end of 2020. But some of its stories and lessons should not be forgotten.”