Through all the fears that many in Sonoma County faced during the devastating fires, perhaps the greatest fear was felt by those who needed medical attention only to learn that two of the county’s largest hospitals were offline. This loss of immediate medical services might have had an even greater impact on the ill, the wounded and the frail had it not been for the network of hospitals that serve Sonoma County, including Healdsburg District Hospital.
It has not been uncommon to hear community members speak out in favor of supporting the newest and the largest medical facilities over what some would call community hospitals. During this catastrophic event even Healdsburg District Hospital had its share of scares with fires to the north and south moving in unpredictable patterns.
I am proud to say that our team of dedicated physicians, medical and support staff performed their services with exceptional professionalism. We were at the ready to evacuate on extremely short notice, which would include many of our most fragile patients, including those hospitalized and on respirators in our sub-acute care unit. Our entire staff remained in 24/7 Incident Command status for approximately 10 days before receiving notice from the county to stand down.
The purpose for sharing this information goes beyond my grateful words for the team at Healdsburg District Hospital. It is more important that the actions that took place displayed the true need for hospitals that serve areas outside the boundaries of Santa Rosa yet are easily accessed by many who were displaced from their typical hospital of choice. The importance of the network of hospitals is always more difficult to describe when not in the grips of a disaster. This is why we need to discuss the important role every hospital plays in ensuring the county’s medical preparedness.
Healdsburg District Hospital offers both primary and specialty care physicians. It has an acute care facility with a certified primary stroke center, a wound care center and an emergency care facility with a 15-minute average wait to see a physician. The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
Throughout the year, Healdsburg District Hospital, along with several other smaller hospital facilities, must compete for visibility and support against major providers. There are many single voices who have suggested a consolidation of hospitals, and I feel they fail to understand the importance of having a network of hospitals at the ready to provide the services called for in a disaster. I would hope that the events associated with the fires will be enough to allow those voices to be raised in ongoing support for the hospitals that meant so much to so many during this tragic time.
Joseph Harrington is the interim CEO for Healdsburg District Hospital, which serves the North Sonoma County Healthcare District, including Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville, Cloverdale and the Alexander Valley.