NORTH BAY - In the midst of one of the greatest debates ever on health care, the Business Journal will hold its annual Health Care Conference on Nov. 11 at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.

A keynote speaker and panel of experts will tackle some of the key issues at the heart of this discussion, focusing on information that small businesses, patients and health care providers will need to help reduce costs and improve health in the North Bay.

Registration for the event will be 7:30 a.m., with the program from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $49 per person or $510 for a table of 10, including company name on the table. To register, call 707-521-5264 or go online to

Keynote speaker Ken Shachmut, executive vice president of Safeway Health LLC, will detail how Safeway took the lead and developed an original program that dramatically cut its health care costs and improved employee health and satisfaction. A panel discussion will follow with Mary Maddux Gonzalez, public health director for the Sonoma County Department of Health Services and a member of the Health Action Council; Victor McKnight, consultant with insurance agency Sitzmann Morris & Lavis; Ken Brock, attorney with Gaw Van Male; and Wayne Fairchild, CEO of Redwood Regional Medical Group.

Unless we act, a tsunami of medical crises – obesity, chronic diabetes and more uninsured – are on the horizon. Ms. Maddux Gonzalez will cover how the Health Action Council has studied data on these looming challenges and is developing community and employer programs to head them off. Mr. McKnight will address what businesses can expect in the short term for employer-provided health care plans and premiums in this uncertain environment. Mr. Brock will provide the facts on how health care reform could affect the cost of health care for small businesses. Mr. Fairchild will discuss how the economy has impacted medical providers and how they may be affected by health care reform.

The event will also feature an interactive tabletop discussion, with an opportunity for a dynamic conversation on what can be done locally to impact health care in the North Bay.