Officials: Calif. hospitals overcrowded with fire evacuees

Marin General Hospital’s chief administrative officer Jon Friedenberg said Marin County’s largest hospital has received only about half a dozen patients

By Richard Halstead
The Marin Independent Journal

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. — Few if any empty beds remained at both Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center and Novato Community Hospital this week as patients were evacuated from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Santa Rosa Medical Center due to the North Bay fires.

Jon Friedenberg, Marin General Hospital’s chief administrative officer, said the county’s largest hospital with 235 licensed beds has received only about half a dozen patients as a result of the emergency.

“When Kaiser Santa Rosa was evacuated they made an effort to transfer those patients to other Kaiser hospitals,” Friedenberg said. “When Sutter Santa Rosa was evacuated they made an effort to transfer those patients to other Sutter hospitals. In both cases it was understandable that they would do that. We received a modest number of patients.”

According to a Kaiser statement, “Evacuation of approximately 130 patients from the Santa Rosa Medical Center was successfully completed by 6 a.m. Monday due to fires burning in the area. The majority of our patients were transferred to Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael.”

A statement issued by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United on Wednesday quoted Kaiser San Rafael nurse Tara Williams as saying that 100 patients were brought to the hospital by bus.

Kaiser spokesman Joe Fragola declined to provide any details on the precise number of patients transferred to San Rafael Medical Center or how the hospital has coped with such a large influx of patients. The hospital has 116 licensed beds.

Fragola did say, “We rescheduled some non-emergency surgeries at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael on Monday and Tuesday to prioritize more urgent and emergent cases.”

Regarding Kaiser’s decision not to send patients to Marin General, Fragola said, “Decisions on where to transfer patients were based on the expert opinions of our physicians on site at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center to ensure our patients’ safety, continuity of care and access to Kaiser Permanente electronic medical records.”

He noted that some Santa Rosa Medical Center patients were also sent to Kaiser’s San Francisco and Oakland medical centers

Also on Monday morning, 17 patients were transferred to Novato Community Hospital from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital. Novato Community has 47 licensed beds.

“Sutter Novato Community Hospital is full,” wrote Lisa Amador, Sutter Health’s director of business development for the North Bay, in an email Wednesday.

“We have Sutter Santa Rosa employees who are also working at Novato Community Hospital to help with the increased care needs due to the devastating North Bay fires,” Amador wrote.

Dr. Dustin Ballard, medical director for Marin County Emergency Medical Services, said San Rafael Medical Center’s emergency room was on saturation diversion for a period of time on Monday. Ballard said it was only the second time that he could remember that the Kaiser emergency room was on diversion.

When hospital emergency rooms are on diversion ambulances are directed to other hospitals. Ballard said the emergency rooms of Marin General and Novato Community Hospital remained open Monday.

Ballard said five Marin ambulances were dispatched to assist with fire victims on Monday.

“Since then it has been normal operations,” Ballard said. “There has been no impact that I’m aware of on EMS response times here in Marin.”

Copyright 2017 The Marin Independent Journal

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