Chico Enterprise-Record: Restoring health care in Paradise a vital step

By Jim Nielsen and Jody Jones
Sunday, September 8, 2019

Eighty-six (86) lives lost, 13,000 homes destroyed and 150,000 acres charred devastating the Town of Paradise and nearby communities. Ten months following the state’s most destructive wildfire, the rebuilding efforts begins. Fire survivors prove their resilience every day.

The Camp Fire disaster tested the resolve of our community and our fellow Californians. We are proud that our friends and neighbors from across the Golden State have stood shoulder to shoulder with us in cleaning up and rebuilding our wonderful community and shown that #ParadiseStrong extends well beyond Butte County.

There is no better symbol of this than the effort to restore access to local public health care services. Our local hospital, Adventist Health Feather River hospital, was severely damaged and is now inoperable. This is catastrophic for not just the Town of Paradise, but the region as the hospital emergency room was one of the few acute care facilities in Butte County.

Today, the nearest emergency department is 19 miles away, which can be a 35-40 minute drive. This is too long for people in need of immediate care. Other hospitals in the region are stressed, working to accommodate the overflow to care for Camp Fire survivors.

This fact is clear: if Paradise is to recover, it needs a local acute care facility.

Fortunately, state legislators and Governor Gavin Newsom are playing a key role in the healing of Paradise and the Ridge through Senate Bill 156. This bill will allow Adventist Health and Rideout, a sister hospital to Adventist Health Feather River, to operate an emergency department in Paradise to care for local residents. The emergency facility is not a long-term solution, but it is essential to providing access to immediate and necessary emergency care. If any patient needs additional care, agreements would be in place with nearby hospitals to transfer patients, and ensure continuity of treatment.

This bipartisan commitment to Paradise has brought out the best in California. SB 156 has passed unanimously in every committee where it has been debated and received strong bipartisan support. It is currently in the Assembly where final amendments are being made to ensure that it achieves the objectives necessary to restore care as Paradise recovers.

The Town of Paradise and its residents today are grateful to the governor, all the legislators and community members that have stood up for a town that has refused to be defined by disaster. As we move forward, we ask the governor to continue his support for this community and support this important bill to bring health care back to people who desperately need it.

We are resilient. We are united. We are California.

Sen. Jim Nielsen represents California Senate District 4, which includes the Town of Paradise. Jody Jones is the current Mayor for the Town of Paradise.

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