Seven Months That Changed the World

Remember what daily life was like before late February? It feels as if a decade of change has occurred in the past seven months.

ABOVE: Intensive Care Unit Nurse Sherryl Oliva, R.N., wears an N-95 mask and face shield on the COVID-19 unit. Patients preparing for surgery are tested for COVID-19 at drive-through test sites (below) prior to surgery.
Intensive Care Unit Nurse Sherryl Oliva, R.N., wears an N-95 mask and face shield on the COVID-19 unit. Patients preparing for surgery are tested for COVID-19 at drive-through test sites (below) prior to surgery.Thrust into the coast-to-coast spotlight, NorthBay Healthcare was first in the nation to have a patient with community-transmitted COVID-19. Add to that the challenge of shouldering the health care needs of hundreds of repatriated Americans quarantined on Travis Air Force Base.

“It only deepened our resolve,” said B. Konard Jones, president and CEO.

“The early experience with the virus enabled us to collaborate with experts from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Solano County Public Health and others,” he noted. “Together we laid the groundwork for guidelines and protocols that rolled out across this country and beyond as we learned about treating patients and protecting our health care workers.”

Being an independent health system, NorthBay was able to mobilize quickly. Safety measures for patients, staff, visitors and the community at large came quickly. Capacity for a surge in patients was created with special units set aside to isolate COVID-19 patients from the general hospital population.

Testing equipment, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and a huge commitment of additional staff resources were secured quickly, but not without a huge financial impact. “That’s what it took to protect our community from the pandemic,” Jones remembered. “That’s what we do.”

NorthBay Healthcare has been blessed by an ongoing outpouring of support from the community, from city and county staff, from elected and appointed officials in Solano County and beyond. Donations of masks, face shields, meals and moral support buoyed the spirits of health care workers.

“Once we created a sustainable response, we turned our attention to two objectives — bringing patients safely back for necessary surgeries and procedures, and launching community prevention initiatives,” Jones said.

Among them:

  • Public testing sites were established in NorthBay Urgent Care sites in Vacaville and Fairfield.
  • Clinical teams were dispatched to help with testing in senior living centers and skilled nursing facilities.
  • A nurse outreach team contacted NorthBay’s most vulnerable primary care patients to check in and see if there was anything they could do to help. In some cases, supplies were delivered, appointments were made and prescriptions refilled.
  • Physicians went online to deliver supportive messages to patients and the community at large. NorthBay.org has featured videos on stress and anxiety, meditation, suggestions for parents and more.
  • Physicians offered their expertise to answer questions and lead conversations via social media, including a recurring Facebook Live COVID Chat with NorthBay’s chief medical officer and our infection prevention expert being hosted on Zoom meetings with local nonprofit organizations.
  • The Center for Primary Care used letters, the website and social media to share updates with patients.
  • Hundreds of social media posts reminded the community about the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing, hand hygiene and more.

What else?

“Because we have been part of the community for more than 60 years, and woven into its fabric, we were able to more quickly identify where help was needed most,” Jones explained. “And we rallied as a cohesive team to respond.”

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