Santa Rosa Community Health’s Vista campus, which burned down during the devastating 2017 Tubbs Fire, has reopened after two painstaking years of rebuilding. The local health clinic was completely destroyed in the fire, leaving a lasting impact on the 180 employees and 24,000 annual patients who depend on its services. Santa Rosa Community Health provides a plethora of resources to the community. These include women’s reproductive healthcare, STI screening, an annual food distribution drive, a program known as “Baby Closet” which provides new mothers with essential supplies, and specialty services including Opioid addiction counseling, gender affirmative therapy, and so much more. Many Sonoma State University graduates have found employment opportunities with SRCH. On Monday, Aug. 19th, the facility reopened its doors and will be hosting an official grand opening in October to commemorate the two year anniversary of the disaster which caused so much pain and destruction.
The process of rebuilding was overwhelming for SRCH, beginning with the immediate need to relocate employees’ positions to neighboring facilities. “We really had to scramble to continue to care for all of these people and to continue to keep our work family employed,” said Annemarie Brown, SRCH’s Director of Communication and Grant Developments. She described the ordeal as “moving, challenging and demanding, yet inspiring.”
Despite these efforts, the facility still inevitably lost some staff members and an estimated 4,000 patients due to the loss of housing in the Santa Rosa area. “Since the fire, we delivered 14,000 fewer patient visits, which translates to a $2.5 million loss in patient visit revenue,” CEO Naomi Fuchs told the North Bay Business Journal. The financial impact of this ordeal has been long-lasting.
The rebuilding project cost roughly nineteen million dollars to complete; approximately sixteen million was covered by insurance, leaving a three million dollar gap to be raised in public donations. Incredibly, over one million has already been raised in an outpouring of love and support from the Sonoma County community. Brown notes that these contributions are especially impressive given that countless local residents have recently lost their homes, their properties, their jobs, and for some, even their friends and family members. Over 5,600 structures and 22 human lives were lost in the deadly 2017 fire, which still haunts the memories of so many affected residents. Sonoma County’s willingness to give after having lost so much is a testament to the strength of a community built on resilience and neighborly compassion.
While the community’s rallying behind SRCH is awe-inspiring, Brown voices that many new challenges still lie ahead. She describes the present day as a “scary political climate” for undocumented patients, who may be afraid to return the hospital for services in fear of their presence being discovered by authorities, as the situation surrounding immigration has escalated in the past few years. “Our community has always been committed to ensuring that everyone in Sonoma County has the care they deserve,” she declared. This will be one of the many areas of focus the facility claims it will continue to work on going forward.
In spite of these challenges, it is clear that the Santa Rosa Community Health staff are relieved to finally see things returning to normal.
“That was a really traumatic time,” facilities director Randy Fischer told The Press Democrat. “I never got a chance to really mourn it…I’m glad now we’re rebuilding, making new memories.”
Santa Rosa Community Health is continuing to fundraise and hopes to eventually reach their goal of raising the remaining two million dollars to offset their costs. “Know that your contribution ensures that every person in Santa Rosa can receive great health care they deserve,” reads the SCRH website, “because everyone should have an opportunity for a full and healthy life.’’
Members of the public can contribute at srhealth.org/donate.