Community Health Centers Rise to the Challenge After Wildfires

Community health center employees volunteered to help at an assisted living center after the Camp Fire. Photo Credit: Ampla Health

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

PARADISE, Calif. – Community health centers are stepping up to the plate to speed recovery after the deadly Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey fire north of Los Angeles, by providing crucial non-emergency health care services.

Ampla Health runs multiple clinics near the town of Paradise, which was all but destroyed by the Camp Fire. Communications specialist Rocio Valdez said even though one of their clinics was damaged and 14 of their employees lost their homes – it’s been full steam ahead at their remaining locations.

“This is a complete devastation. Everyone is very, very committed to our mission. We are keeping our doors open,” Valdez said. “That is part of our responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to our health care services. ”

Operations have been hampered by poor internet connectivity and a high number of patients who are new to the system. But, she said, clinics are determined to overcome the obstacles and provide care to as many people as possible.

Federally qualified health centers serve 28 million people nationwide.

Valdez said the centers can keep people out of the emergency room by treating a wide range of issues that arise when families suddenly lose their homes and possessions.

“Well, the type of things that are most common after a disaster like this would be medications to be refilled, asthma, sinus infections, stomach problems, infections in general that require antibiotics,” she said. “And anxiety; there is a lot of anxiety among the community.”

Valdez added that Ampla is working on getting a mobile unit up and running to help people, many of whom who are staying in tents after running out of money for hotel rooms.