As we approach the one-year mark of the global COVID-19 pandemic, big changes are afoot at Alexander Valley Healthcare.
CEO Debbie Howell says the Cloverdale healthcare provider and Healthcare Foundation grantee has managed to weather the challenges of the last year with the help of dedicated people, a can-do attitude, and the ability to respond quickly to crises.
“We’re resourceful and resilient, and we have dedicated staff and dedicated community members,” she said. “This has been a difficult time, but I think we’re all starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Like most organizations in Sonoma County, Alexander Valley Healthcare (AVH) was taken by surprise last March when Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase issued the first of a handful of shelter-in-place orders. The clinic had to close its dental department and reduce staff. By summer, Howell and her colleagues had to figure out how to reopen. Reserve funds and a grant from the Healthcare Foundation helped.
Quickly, AVH brought back some of its people, reopened the dental facility, secured necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and came up with new policies for minimizing risk of exposure to COVID-19.
A new facility was part of the pandemic plan. AVH took over the former Healdsburg Hospital site in downtown Cloverdale and turned it into a same-day urgent care facility. Howell says this has enabled AVH to divide its main site to separate sick patients from those who feel fine.
It also gives AVH staffers the ability to administer COVID-19 tests without having people leave their cars. “The whole idea was to try to minimize exposure,” she said. “By taking all the COVID stuff and moving it away from everything else, it gives us the ability to mitigate the spread.”
With the new facility, AVH now has three sites:
- A primary medical care site on the south end of Cloverdale that offers treatment for behavior health and basic medical care. This site also coordinates financial-oriented services such as sign-ups, food stamps, and prescription drug programs.
- A secondary medical site on the north end of Cloverdale that comprises dental services and administration.
- A third and new site in the middle of Cloverdale for COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 treatment. Some of the AVH administrative offices are in this facility as well.
Next up: Vaccine distribution.
During the last week of January, AVH set up a drive-through vaccination site at the Cloverdale train depot and managed to vaccinate 1,223 people over the course of three days. Patients who were vaccinated were healthcare workers and age-eligible North County residents. Howell said AVH will hold additional vaccination drive-through events over the course of the next few months to eventually vaccinate somewhere between 5,500 and 6,000 people.
“The sooner we do it, the sooner we all can get back to our normal lives,” she said. “It’s all based on supply we get from the county.”
The relationship between the Healthcare Foundation and AVH goes back more than 10 years. In 2020, we provided AVH two Emergency Healthcare Fund general operating grants that supported vital initiatives including the new COVID facility, high-risk patient outreach, and now vaccination efforts for their low-income patients.
According to Howell, the partnership with the Healthcare Foundation has helped AVH to grow, and likely will provide a strong foundation for additional growth in the months and years ahead.
“The Healthcare Foundation is a valuable partner for us,” she said. “I rest easier knowing we’re in this together.”