Blue Shield Of California Provides $2 Million For Health Care For Wildfire Victims

Blue Shield Of California helps doctors resume care for patients; rebuild destroyed clinic

PARADISE, Ca – When California’s deadliest fire raged across the tinder dry hills of Butte County last fall, doctors and staff at the Paradise Medical Group were among the last to leave their town. One pediatrician sent his family to safety while he helped moms and their newborn babies evacuate a nearby hospital as the wildfire loomed. Another staff member risked his life to save patient records on disk drives, bundling them frantically and fleeing on his motorcycle just moments before the flames arrived to turn everything in his rearview mirror to ash and anguish.

Today, the resilient community is on the long road of recovery and renewal. The fire left more than 85 dead and over 18,000 buildings destroyed, including Paradise Medical Group’s clinic. Blue Shield of California is playing a role to restore and enhance healthcare services for the town and immediate region. The company is donating nearly $2 million to help restore health care delivery and other services in response to the fires, helping doctors connect with their patients – even helping to rebuild the clinic in Paradise.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and truly inspired by the courage of all the first responders and medical providers,” said Paul Markovich, President and CEO, Blue Shield of California. “We are proud to help and support the effort to rebuild. Every Californian needs and deserves access to health care. Our vision for the future of health care in California includes vibrant services in Butte County.”

Blue Shield’s support to help restore health services includes a collaboration with Teladoc Health and Paradise Medical Group. Together, they will build a new care-delivery service that allows residents to consult Paradise Medical Group physicians via smart phone, personal computer or telephone. The “e-visit” service will provide the physicians much-needed tools to care for their patients, many of whom have dispersed into neighboring communities.

Paradise Medical Group, which serves about 10,000 area residents, has relocated temporarily to rented space in nearby city of Chico, where the practice’s doctors now see their patients. The largest of their three original buildings in Paradise was destroyed in the fire and the remaining two buildings have limited clinic space. In order to help the medical group return to Paradise more quickly, Blue Shield will assist in renovating the remaining facilities to maximize the clinic capacity. Rebuilding the larger building will take longer, but plans are underway.

Dr. David Russell of the Paradise Medical Group next to his burned down office in Paradise, Calif. on February 28th, 2019
Dr. David Russell of the Paradise Medical Group next to his burned down office in Paradise, Calif. on February 28th, 2019

“Paradise Medical Group is extremely thankful for Blue Shield of California’s generous support that has assisted us to care for our patients and our community during and after this catastrophe,” said Richard Thorp, M.D., President of Paradise Medical Group (represented by Dr. David Russell in the photo). “The Camp Fire was a devastating event and this support has not only helped us meet immediate financial and operational needs, but also is helping us rebuild our community with an even better care delivery system. Paradise Medical Group possibly would not have survived without Blue Shield’s assistance.”

Thorp added: “On Nov. 8, 2018 Paradise Medical Group physicians, advanced practice providers and staff rapidly changed their focus from patient care to survival. Most of our physicians and staff homes were destroyed in the Camp Fire and many of our staff had harrowing escapes from Paradise. About half of our existing practice location was destroyed in the fire, but in spite of these difficulties, our physicians and staff were determined to continue providing care to our patients. During this difficult time, Blue Shield has been an answer to our prayers.”

The virtual care delivery platform from Teladoc Health will serve all Paradise Medical Group patients, regardless of their health plan. Via phone or mobile app, patients can directly connect with their physicians, no matter where either is located, and receive diagnosis and treatment for an array of conditions.

Doctors will be able to treat medical issues such as upper respiratory infections and other breathing illnesses fire survivors experience, as well as many other everyday care needs. For Blue Shield of California members, the service will be available with no additional cost to the member.

“As the community of Paradise works to recover, we’re grateful that, through our collaboration with Blue Shield of California, we are helping the physician community to return to caring for their patients,” said Jason Gorevic, CEO, Teladoc Health. “Through the use of our virtual care platform, regardless of location, residents of Butte County can count on accessing much needed care.”

As part of the contributions for recovery, Blue Shield, a tax-paying, nonprofit health plan, its employees and the Blue Shield of California Foundation also have provided nearly $225,000 in support to help victims of recent wildfires in Northern and Southern California.

The effort has included purchasing more than 2,250 backpacks for kids returning to school, volunteering with Salvation Army to make hygiene bags for people affected by the fires, and funding for a range of agencies such as the American Red Cross, California Fire Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the United Ways of California, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and United Way of Northern California.

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