PARADISE, Calif. (March 6, 2019) – 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.
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. “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.
About Paradise Medical Group
Paradise Medical Group is a multi-specialty primary care group formed in 2001. The group formed after California Health Foundation divested physicians in the late 1990s. Group physicians are trained in and practice family medicine, internal medicine and pediatric medicine. Paradise Medical Group’s physicians include practitioners who have practiced medicine on “The Ridge” for over 30 years.
Paradise Medical Group physicians have held key medical leadership positions over the last 20 years in various capacities including 3 Chiefs of Staff of Feather River Hospital, a member of Adventist Health’s Governing Board, a President of The Butte-Glenn Medical Society and The California Medical Association and have served on advisory boards and as consultants.
About Teladoc Health
A mission-driven organization, Teladoc Health, Inc. is successfully transforming how people access and experience healthcare, with a focus on high quality, lower costs, and improved outcomes around the world. The company’s award-winning, integrated clinical solutions are inclusive of telehealth, expert medical opinions, AI and analytics, and licensable platform services. With more than 2,000 employees, the organization delivers care in 125 countries and in more than 20 languages, partnering with employers, hospitals and health systems, and insurers to transform care delivery. For more information, please visit www.teladochealth.com or follow @TeladocHealth on Twitter.
About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a health care system worthy of our family and friends that is sustainably affordable. We are a not for profit, independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association with care for four million members, 6,800 employees and more than $20 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 and headquartered in San Francisco, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid and Medicare health care service plans in California. The company has contributed more than $500 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation since 2002 to have an impact on California communities.
For more news about Blue Shield of California, please visit news.blueshieldca.com.