Fountaingrove’s Vista clinic returns two years after Tubbs fire
Demolition crews last summer had stripped Santa Rosa Community Health’s Vista Campus down to its metal frame and concrete floors, eliminating even the slightest hint or smell of smoke, mold and ash.
The cold, lifeless skeletal frame of this once bustling Fountaingrove clinic was a reminder of everything that was lost in the 2017 Tubbs fire, and the depths of its scars.
“It was such an empty shell. I can’t describe it — It’s like the building’s soul was gone,” said Randy Fincher, facilities manager for Santa Rosa Community Health.
The tempest of flames that swept over Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood didn’t bring down the 40,000-square-foot health center, though it might as well have.
The Tubbs fire torched a nearby play structure that, in turn, flung flames and embers onto the clinic’s roof, destroying it, according to health center officials. That triggered the building’s sprinkler system, which then flooded the entire two-story medical complex on Round Barn Circle. Water, mold and smoke damage rendered the site useless.
However, after months of redesign, reconstruction and remodeling work that cost a total of $19 million, the clinic is scheduled to reopen its doors to patients Monday for the first time since the fires.
When the clinic originally opened in 2010, it cost $9 million to remodel and equip the building after Santa Rosa Community Health purchased it for $4 million.
The health center had to do similar interior work after it was flooded, as well as replace the building’s roof, windows, elevator and exterior walls. All of this was done at a time when construction costs continue to climb because of high demand and labor and materials shortages, health center officials said.
In preparation for the clinic’s reopening, 160 employees last week went through an extensive orientation in the new facility, much of which has been redesigned to facilitate “team-based care,” said Gaby Bernal Leroi, Santa Rosa Community Health’s chief operating officer.
Bernal Leroi, who was site director of Vista Campus before the fire, described the focus of the health center’s first design as “decompression,” a sudden expansion from the former cramped and inadequate facilities on Chanate Road.
After the Tubbs fire, Vista staff members were scattered to the agency’s other health care facilities in the city, including new and temporary sites.
Those employees, who had become like a family, lost their “home away from home,” Bernal Leroi said.
“It was a long and hard road for all of us, having to get accustomed to new spaces that were not always adequate,” she said. “I wanted to created a building that was beautiful and functional and brought back the joy and the soul of its staff.”
Before the fire, Vista saw 300 patients a day, and 24,000 patients visited the clinic 100,000 times a year. Santa Rosa Community Health, which has several clinic sites in Santa Rosa, saw its annual patient roster fall from 44,000 before the fire to about 40,000 last year.
Since then, 2,000 patients have been added, and the agency hopes Vista’s reopening will bring its patient load back to prefire levels. The agency’s clinics currently have no waiting lists, Bernal Leroi said.
“If you are a new patient who is sick, we can get you in (the) same day,” she said.