s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Russian River Health Center

The Russian River Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center providing comprehensive primary and preventive care and accepts all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

To make an appointment, call (707) 869-2849.

GUERNEVILLE - Providers and patients who endured 8½ months of cramped, improvised facilities in the wake of a December arson fire that destroyed the Russian River Health Center are back at their old site in new digs serving the lower Russian River communities.

The health center in downtown Guerneville — medical home for 3,500 patients — reopened last month at Third and Church streets in a modular structure assembled where the charred remains of the longtime clinic once stood. Spotless and orderly, the 3,300-square-foot clinic is smaller but features seven exam rooms, three restrooms, a waiting room, lab, staff offices and other facilities. Though lacking the quirky, lived-in familiarity of the old health center — a one-time house expanded and remodeled multiple times — the new facility offers convenience and luxury compared to what had been cobbled together in the aftermath of the fire, when the clinic operated mainly out of a 600-foot modular unit and a mobile medical van.

“So much room!” medical assistant Charlie Davis said Thursday. “We can move around, finally.”

The health center is one of four primary care clinics operated by the nonprofit West County Health Centers. The nonprofit also runs a dental clinic and teen outreach center in Guerneville as well as a wellness center in Forestville, and has provided critical medical and behavioral health care to the west Sonoma County community for more than 40 years, most of it in the Third Street building that went up in flames on the day after Christmas last year. The loss of the clinic was a source of grief and anger throughout town, but the staff spent little time mourning. By that Monday, they were seeing patients with the help of a borrowed recreational vehicle modified into a mobile clinic and a small modular unit acquired specifically for homeless health care. Both were parked adjacent to the West County Health Centers’ dental clinic. Patients used the waiting room at the dental clinic, some of which was also shared with the medical staff. Supplies were kept in two emergency response units in the parking lot. When it rained, people got wet. Patients who could drive were diverted in many cases to clinics in Sebastopol and some were provided transportation.

But the health care providers know there were patients who cut back on appointments to avoid the extra travel or to lessen the burden on the staff.

West County Health Centers Executive Director Mary Szecsey said visits — which typically ran about 50 a day before the fire — have declined about 25 percent in the months since.The patients who stayed received uninterrupted care, despite the use of exam rooms on wheels that patient Gretchen Williams, 64, jokingly said sometimes “used to feel like an earthquake.”

The staff, Williams said, “is just an amazing group of people, and they very much care about the patients and the community, and they’ve been through a lot.”

Stephanie O’Connell said the clinic is so much a part of the community its loss would have been “tragic.”

“The care here is so good,” said O’Connell, 58. “The doctors are so caring and involved with the patients. ... It was a concern when I didn’t know if we were going to get our health center back.”

DeEtte DeVille, the site’s medical director, said the resilience of the patients and the flexibility of staff in the months since the fire have been remarkable.

Russian River Health Center

The Russian River Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center providing comprehensive primary and preventive care and accepts all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

To make an appointment, call (707) 869-2849.

But the spatial constraints and the unexpected emotional strain of functioning in ad hoc conditions were challenging.

“Not knowing if there was going to be a computer to use; not knowing if the printer would work; it wears on you after awhile,” DeVille said.

Szecsey said carrying on without medical and behavioral health being integrated is less than ideal but is temporary. The new modular building will serve on an interim basis until a larger, all-in-one medical, dental, behavioral health and administrative center can be built on property a few blocks away, possibly in two or three years.

A capital campaign is underway to fund the ambitious new facility, expected to provide about 10,000 square feet for services now scattered among four different structures. The new site is located east of Safeway, behind the health food store Food For Humans.

“It will take several years to build the new, permanent health center,” Szecsey said, “but moving into these expanded temporary quarters is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Show Comment