Owens Healthcare steps up as wildfire rages on

Deadly Carr Fire compromises oxygen, CPAP patients
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

REDDING, Calif. – It has been all hands on deck for employees of Owens Healthcare ever since devastating wildfires began scorching the region last month.

“We cleared our schedule to make sure we had everyone available to help and go out into the field to make sure patients were OK,” said Shane Ryan, manager of Owens Healthcare’s Redding location. “Our closest branch location brought us quite a few POCs that we dispensed immediately to people, then we circled back to patients and got them set up with home units, equipment and supplies.”

The Carr Fire, which started near Redding, has burned nearly 270 square miles, killing six people and destroying 1,000 homes. It was only 47% contained at press time.

“Our immediate town is out of danger, but it’s moved into more rural areas with difficult terrain,” said Tammy Miller, operations manager. “It’s our neighboring towns and communities that are the worry now.”

Employees have been patrolling evacuation centers to look for their patients and, in some cases, have been approached by patients of other companies, says Ryan.

“They were directed to their provider if possible, and if they had an out-of-town company, then we did what we could, within the scope of what we are allowed to do, to make sure they are safe and have everything that they need,” he said.

Owens Healthcare is also fielding inquiries from displaced patients who are only now remembering they no longer have their CPAP equipment with them, says Ryan.

“A lot of folks had only minutes to get out,” he said. “Now that they’ve had time to process that they’ve lost everything, they are realizing they don’t have their CPAP.”

As in many cases when disasters strike, providers often take a financial hit because they put patients first, says Miller.

“If it’s out of our pocket, it’s out of our pocket,” she said. “We had patients come in to us that weren’t getting the care they needed. We are local and there, and ready to help.”

Wildfires are par for the course in northern California—Owens Healthcare has had to put its disaster plan into effect several times—but the Carr Fire is testing everyone, says Miller.

“If you live in northern California, you are connected to a fireman in one way or another,” she said. “They are all saying this fire has been the most unpredictable they’ve ever seen.”