County now sends 42% of its seriously injured patients to other facilities

[caption id="attachment_25060" align="alignleft" width="115" caption=" Deborah Sugiyama"][/caption]

FAIRFIELD – NorthBay Heathcare is developing a plan to open Solano County’s first trauma center, which could be operational by early 2012 and would lessen the need to send seriously wounded patients to neighboring counties.

NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield would be designated a level III trauma center should hospital plans meet final county approval. The state already approved a county plan in June, and now the Solano Emergency Medical Services Cooperative – a committee of involved parties – needs to approve the plan and issue the trauma designation, according to hospital spokesman Steve Huddleston.

Months of training, hiring a trauma surgeon to serve as program director and coordination with the county’s Emergency Medical Services, as well as first responders such as ambulance companies, police and fire agencies, must occur in order for the 132-bed acute-care hospital to meet the trauma requirements, officials said.

Given its size, it’s somewhat rare that Solano County does not already have a trauma center, said Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, which operates the medical center as well as NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville.

The eventual plan is to make VacaValley Hospital a level II trauma center, somewhere around 2013. Upon that occurring, the entire trauma team would move from Fairfield to Vacaville.

About 1,000 trauma cases occur per year in Solano County, and 42 percent of those are transferred out of the county, typically to either John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek or U.C. Davis Medical Center, hospital officials said.

The majority of traumas in Solano result from car accidents and falls, at 50 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

The need for trauma care was previously not sustainable or would have caused too big a financial hit in the past, Mr. Huddleston said. But since 2003 the need has increased significantly enough to warrant a full trauma center, he said.

The hospital has made significant infrastructure improvements over the past three years that will enable it to handle the trauma designation as well as other medical services – it was recently designated a chest pain center, and it is equipped with a heart and vascular practice.

In addition, the hospital put into place around-the-clock physician staffing for general surgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesia, OB-GYN and critical care medicine, which officials said has laid the groundwork for the hospital to become a trauma center.

“We created that system to improve the care for all patients,” Ms. Sugiyama said. “But we always had in mind that it would bolster our move into trauma care.”

She added that the hospital is confident it will meet the county requirements needed for approval.

NorthBay Healthcare said it is already staffed with several key managers with experience in trauma care, including Kathy Richardson, who will oversee the trauma program as vice president and chief nursing officer. She helped develop a trauma center at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento, according to the hospital.

Although officials said the hospital is more than capable of earning the trauma distinction, much work remains.

“Clinical systems need to be created, surgery and intensive care units must be integrated into our trauma plan,” Ms. Richardson said. “There’s significant staff training to accomplish, quality monitoring to put in place and community outreach to do.

“We are up to the challenge,” she continued, adding the trauma center is “something that is very much needed in our community.”

The new trauma center would not take on patients suffering severe brain damage or other head traumas involving neurological complications. Such patients in Solano County would continue to be sent to higher designated trauma centers in the region, and pediatric traumas will continue to be sent to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Mr. Huddleston said.