‘Pray for us’ – Health care workers help patients despite losing homes in Redding fire

At least eight doctors and other health care workers at Redding’s Shasta Regional Medical Centers lost their homes in the Carr fire, but they reported for work as scheduled. The situation is the same for personnel at Mercy Medical Center Redding and at the VA Redding Outpatient Clinic.

Hundreds of health care workers in the Redding area also can’t return to their homes because of orders to evacuate.

“We’ve had a lot of physicians and a lot of our staff lose their homes, so you can imagine what they’re going through emotionally and physically,” said Casey Fatch, who took over May 8 as chief executive officer of Shasta Regional Medical Center. “I don’t think they’ve seen anything like this before. These are very trying times.”

Shasta Regional and Mercy Redding canceled all elective surgeries Thursday as the Carr fire burned within a couple of miles of them. Mercy Redding sent six babies from its neonatal intensive care unit to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and to Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael.

“The fire was pretty close to the hospital (Thursday night),” said Mike Mangas, external communications manager at Mercy Redding. “You could see it in the distance. I live right by the hospital, and as I was driving home, I stopped and watch the fire burn on a hillside that’s on the other side of a small airport from my neighborhood. There were a couple of homes on that hillside, and I watched those burn. There was concern that it was going to encroach further into town. Fortunately, it did not.“

Hospital leaders couldn’t know what path the blaze would take, however, Mangas said, and preparing NICU infants for transfer takes three to four hours, so they made the call to send the babies to a safer location. Mercy Redding also prepared higher-risk patients for transfer, Mangas said, but it wasn’t necessary.

Mangas was standing outside the hospital Friday afternoon as he spoke with a Bee reporter. He said it was eerily quiet, that the normally crowded parking lot had plenty of empty spaces and that he didn’t see the usual bustle of people coming and going from the hospital entrance.

The VA outpatient facility in Redding was operating with about 60 percent of its regular staff, said spokesman Will Martin, because many staff were forced to evacuate or had lost their homes. At Mercy Redding, 35 to 40 nurses had called the last few days to tell their supervisor that they could not make their shifts for the same reasons.

Both Mercy Redding and Shasta Regional have adequate staff to serve the community, officials said, because other personnel stepped up to help their colleagues. Martin said many veterans had not arrived for appointments. Others came unexpectedly because they had to leave their homes so quickly that they had not been able to get medications.

Mangas said he has lived in the Redding area for most of his life and has never experienced devastation like this. During a disaster planning session, he said he had sat near a coworker who had been in the health-care field for 25 years in Redding and had not seen this sort of emergency situation at the hospitals there.

Registered nurse Trish Weaver said police came through her neighborhood Friday, telling residents to flee or perish, so she packed and left but was also doing her part for patients at Shasta Regional. The staff there, she said, are really pulling together and supporting each other.

“Pray for us,” Weaver said. “For some reason, our beautiful, little town is going up in flames, and we could use all the help we can get, whether it be divine intervention or just happy thoughts.”

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