PETALUMA (KPIX 5) – Two weeks ago, the staff at Petaluma Valley Hospital started getting vaccinated. This week, they’ve gotten more good news: Three firefighter-paramedics and six EMTs on loan from Solano County.
“Normally, I’d be wearing turnouts or my wildfire gear, or my Class A uniform,” says Will Coelho of the Rio Vista Fire Department. “But we’ve all switched over to scrubs to kind of wear a different hat, if you will.”
Coelho is doing some commuting, and revisiting the 100 hours of clinical work he did years ago as part of his paramedic training.
“Starting IVs, taking vitals, doing blood draws, patient transfers,” Coelho said. “Helping these nurses out in any way that we can.”
“You know, the staff are exhausted,” said Wendi Thomas, the hospital’s Director of Nursing. “The leadership is exhausted. We were really trying to get creative so we have been asking the county for help.”
Thomas said firefighters are a perfect emergency fit.
“They are used to doing something like that, because they go on strike events for wildfires” Thomas explained to KPIX 5. “So this is a strike team, so to speak, that instead of being deployed to wildfire was deployed to a hospital.”
The hospital is not out of space, but anywhere from 15% to 25%of beds are filled with COVID patients, and staff was wearing down.
“It’s been a win-win,” Thomas said. “It has also allowed some people to have a little bit of a breath.”
“It was definitely stepping out of my element, doing something different, and finding new ways to serve the community,” Coelho says. “And by no means are we nurses, and by no means are we capable of doing their jobs. But if we can help them out, it’s beneficial to us.”
A handful of paramedics from the Bay Area are also going to help in Southern California which is facing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. The mutual aid in Petaluma will last for the next two weeks.