Published on June 29, 2021

An Unprecedented Undertaking

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Vaccinating Butte County Against COVID-19

When COVID-19 vaccines first became available, it was a ray of hope for Enloe Medical Center’s caregivers.

“It felt like we were finally working toward a solution,” said Julie Martin, Senior Director of Ambulatory Operations, whose team worked to create the hospital’s first clinic.

Since December, Enloe has administered more than 80,000 COVID-19 vaccines to people throughout Butte County. Beginning with frontline workers and then extending to the community at large, the undertaking has been unprecedented, resulting in the most patients ever seen at one site in the hospital’s 108-year history.

A collaboration with Butte County Public Health (BCPH), the effort has involved caregivers from departments across the hospital and more than 150 volunteers.

Getting Off the Ground

The first COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use was from Pfizer and required deep freezing. Initially, hospitals were one of the only places that could store doses properly. Working with the county, Enloe hustled to figure out how to set up and run a clinic for the frontline workers first in line for vaccination. This first clinic was hospital-based, housed in a building on the Esplanade and staffed by Enloe caregivers who volunteered to fill shifts.

In those early days when vaccines were limited, Enloe caregivers were manning a scheduling line that was receiving about seven calls a minute.

“We had filled this entire house with phone calls,” Martin said of Enloe’s Aspen House, home to Ambulatory Operations. “Every one of us was answering and scheduling.”

At the same time, anticipating the approval of the Moderna vaccine and widening of vaccine availability, Enloe’s Chief Operating Officer Brady Haynes directed Judy Cline, Director of the Emergency department, Prompt Care and Trauma Services, to come up with a plan for running mass vaccination sites for the community.

Working with BCPH, Cline and her team — including Margie Rackley, Program Assistant for the Enloe Outpatient Center; Andy Miller, M.D.; and Ruth Cooper, Volunteer Nurse Coordinator — drew on their experience running mass flu clinics to get ready. By Jan. 20, the first mass vaccination site for the county was established in a space at Meriam Park donated by Dan Gonzales. It later moved to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds and now operates from 560 Cohasset Road, the former site of one of Enloe’s Prompt Care clinics.

It was a historic mission that we all believed in, and it truly was an honor for us to be there and carry out the work,” said Judy Cline, Director of the Emergency department, Prompt Care and Trauma Services.

A Volunteer Workforce

The mass vaccination clinics were run in large part by community volunteers.

“It was a huge outpouring,” said Cline, of the dozens of retired doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals and community members who helped with everything from greeting people in the parking lot to administering doses.

Each day, about 45 Enloe volunteers worked at the community clinics, and in all, 157 volunteers donated more than 10,000 hours of their time.

And the clinics were exceptionally efficient. The hospital-based clinic saw hundreds of people a day, with community members able to get in and out in under 25 minutes — 15 of which were for observation. The community clinics were just as streamlined with a much larger volume. On the busiest day 1,786 doses were administered.

“It was a historic mission that we all believed in, and it truly was an honor for us to be there and carry out the work,” Cline said.

Igniting Hope

For the community members who have come through these clinics, vaccination provided an enormous sense of relief. Rackley remembers one elderly woman who had just received her second dose.

“As she was walking by, it was kind of breezy, and I said to her, you know, ‘You have a really good day and enjoy your year.’” The woman broke down into tears. She was going to be able to see her daughter for the first time in a year.

“To know that, in a sense, we gave her back her life,” Rackley said, “that’s the one that’s going to stick with me forever.”