Meeting among NorthBay Council for fire aide

NorthBay Shines During Disastrous Fires

As the deadly, devastating Atlas Fire swept into Solano County in October, a full-blown mobilization was launched, spearheaded by a Command Center filled with NorthBay managers and supervisors. It would be an eight-day-and-night ordeal.

It would, however, spotlight the competence and compassion that epitomizes the NorthBay Way.

Every department and every unit, on and off the campuses of the two hospitals, became important contributors to a common goal: Keep our buildings and services open, keep our patients safe, look out for our fellow workers, many of whom were driven from their homes by the wildfire.

At least two physicians' houses burned and dozens of employees, board members and physicians were evacuated from their homes, or put on notice to be ready to leave in a moment's notice. The campus in Green Valley was closest to the fire zone, only 2 miles from the mandatory evacuation zone.

Fire burning acres at night

Amid all the surrounding misfortune, no campus closed and there was only a temporarily shutdown of a couple of services due to the poor air quality outdoors that would have affected patients with respiratory ailments coming to and from appointments.

“We chose a noble profession,” President and CEO B. Konard Jones would say during the week. “But we answered the call, stood strong while others were evacuating and closing their businesses. We were needed by our community. And we met that need.”

Noted Aimee Brewer, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, “In addition to focusing on their roles and their patients, our employees were constantly asking how they could help others — employees being evacuated, firefighters, evacuees. It was awesome.”

Staff, nurses and physicians covered every shift. Emergency services were available to all who needed it.

Tackling what would be the greatest challenge, air quality inside hospitals and ambulatory centers, the engineering department mobilized quickly. High-grade air filters were installed in the ventilation system, portable air filters and large “air scrubbers” were deployed, as well as round-the-clock monitoring of smoke coming into the building.

Answering a public cry for help, NorthBay distributed thousands of face masks to help those having trouble breathing in smoky air outdoors, and even indoors. The supply chain team was constantly monitoring inventory of procedure masks and N-95 respirator masks, overcoming low supplies across the state and nation.

When the planned annual employee appreciation meal had to be cancelled, the compassion of NorthBay was on display again, as a staff mobilized to deliver the meals to area firefighters and a local evacuation center.

Northbay sign with hazy sun in background

When Petaluma Valley Hospital was teeming with patients with breathing issues, two NorthBay respiratory care practitioners were dispatched to assist. Other employees volunteered to help in evacuation centers and health clinics on their own time.

Concern that those evacuated would have to travel far to find temporary housing, Human Resources created a clearinghouse for employees who needed a place to relocate, matching them with fellow employees who opened their homes to co-workers for short-term accommodations.

“It was a proud moment to see how everyone responded, stepping out of their roles and responsibilities to become housing managers and coordinators of emergency accommodations for children,” Brewer observed. “This came together in a day.”

Predicting a demand for more hospital beds, a multi-disciplinary team jumped into action to open 15 beds in Unit 1800 North in Fairfield's hospital. Construction crews were mopping floors and installing monitors. Managers were cleaning furniture and delivery trucks were hustling to and from warehouses.

While the Green Valley Administration Center and Green Valley Health Plaza escaped a mandatory evacuation order, contingency plans were in place, just in case.

Nicole Brocato, vice president, Operations and Chief Quality Control Officer, summed up the exceptional performance of everyone, saying, “We have good reason to be very proud of how we continued our high-quality care of our patients, how everyone performed compassionately and competently the entire time.”

Nurse standing by firestation sign