George Boardman: Evacuating the elderly, roadkill hot spots and long-distance medical care |

George Boardman: Evacuating the elderly, roadkill hot spots and long-distance medical care

George Boardman
George Boardman
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

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Authorities have identified 81 of the 86 people known to have died in the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, and a scan of the list suggests a cautionary tale for residents of western Nevada County.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the age of the victims — 60% of them were 70 or older, and half of them were 80 or older. The oldest victim was 99. Does that sound like a community near you?

I suspect most of those who perished died because they needed help escaping the flames, and help couldn’t get there in time, or just couldn’t get there. First responders had their hands full trying to unsnarl the evacuation routes and contain the fire. Callers to 911 experienced long waits before their call was answered, if it was answered at all.

You are naïve if you think our experience would be any better if we’re unlucky enough to have a massive wildfire. We already know our fire departments are understaffed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sheriff’s office and police departments are in the same boat. If we ever have a major fire catastrophe, you’ll be largely on your own when it comes to escaping the flames.

If you’re a senior citizen who lives in the outer reaches of our community and would need help escaping, you need to face reality and move closer to town. I know, I know: You’ve been independent all of your life, and that’s the last thing you want to give up. But if you live long enough, you won’t be independent anymore, and you’re selfish if you expect your children or other relatives to be superheroes. If you have relatives in those circumstances who depends on you, you need to have a serious talk about the realities of getting help in a wildfire.

If you have a loved one or other person who depends on you living in a nursing home or smaller care facility, you need to understand very clearly their evacuation plan in the event of a major fire, especially their ability to evacuate the bed ridden. Do they have enough staff working nights and weekends to pull it off? Where are the vehicles to transport the residents? Are residents on their own?

These are difficult discussions to have and hard questions to ask, but it needs to be done now.

Roadkill hot spot

The UC Davis Road Ecology Center has confirmed what you probably already suspect: Highway 49 is one of California’s roadkill “hot spots.”

The center recently released its annual report detailing the economic costs of “wildlife-vehicle conflicts” on California’s highways. You may be interested to know that along with Highway 49, Interstate 80 near Auburn and Highway 89 north of Lake Tahoe are two other areas that see animal carcasses turn up most frequently and with the greatest density per mile.

The center estimates 7,000 highway crashes involving deer and other “large wildlife” (cows, goats, mountain lions, etc.) happen every year, resulting in damage to vehicles of at least $232 million, and perhaps as much as $500 million when factoring in unreported crashes.

On the bright side, there is currently a bill before the state Legislature that would make it legal for Californians to eat roadkill. If the bill becomes law, it’s something to consider for next year’s barbecue season. Impress your friends with something truly different on the grill!

Long-distance care

The state Department of Health Care Services was recently upbraided by the state auditor for failing to ensure MediCal beneficiaries have adequate access and quality of care in Nevada County and 17 other rural counties.

State Auditor Elaine Howle was asked to examine the level of care patients have received since the counties transitioned into managed care plans from fee-for-service plans in 2013. She concluded the managed care plans run by Anthem Blue Cross and California Health & Wellness failed to meet a significant number of minimum quality metrics set out by the state.

Howle was particularly concerned about the distances MediCal recipients had to travel to receive treatment from specialists — sometimes more than 300 miles. “A beneficiary who has to travel hundreds of miles to receive medical care might be forced to miss an entire day of work and lose wages — a loss that might be critical considering that beneficiaries … have limited incomes,” Howle wrote.

Eight other rural counties — Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity — launched their own health care plan, Partnership HealthPlan of California, that has managed to keep patient travel for care down to 60 miles or less.

Howle suggested that Nevada County and the other laggards consider setting up their own managed care plans when the Health & Wellness contract expires in 2020 and the Anthem contract in 2023.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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