[caption id="attachment_38341" align="alignright" width="288" caption="NorthBay Healthcare Medical Center in Fairfield will be the first trauma center in Solano County."][/caption]
SOLANO COUNTY -- Solano County has never had a hospital designated as a trauma center, a rarity given its size, but it could have two by the end of this year.
Both NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield and Kaiser Permanente in Vacaville have filed plans with the county to open level III trauma centers, each with the stated intent of providing first-rate emergency care while lessening the need to send seriously injured patients out of county.
NorthBay Healthcare, which operates the 132-bed NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and 50-bed VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, first announced the trauma center plans in September 2010.
The initial plan called for the Fairfield hospital to open as a level III center, with the eventual goal of opening a level II center at VacaValley, which will soon undergo a $118 million renovation and expansion.
[caption id="attachment_38343" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Kaiser Permanente's Vacaville hospital "][/caption]
But shortly after NorthBay’s announcement, Kaiser announced that it too intended to make its 64-bed Vacaville facility, just built in 2009, a level III trauma center, with the intent of making it a level II center in the near future.
NorthBay, which has planned for the trauma center for three years, expects its Fairfield hospital to be given final county approval for a level III by the end of September, said hospital spokesman Steve Huddleston.
Kaiser anticipates its approval for level III by the end of 2011, according to Max Villalobos, senior vice president of hospital administration for Kaiser's Napa-Solano region.
There is no limit on how many level III centers can be in the county, but state law stipulates a county can have only one level II center, unless a specific exception is granted, said Ted Selby, emergency medical services administrator for Solano County.
Currently, Solano County sends about 42 percent of seriously injured patients to either UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, a level I center, or John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, level II. Having a level III center would reduce that number significantly. A level II center is better equipped to handle severe head and spine injuries, while a level I center is required to have a research or teaching component.
NorthBay estimates its Fairfield hospital would see about 500 trauma patients a year, while Kaiser Vacaville put the number at about 300. The majority of traumas in Solano result from car accidents and falls.
A needs assessment is currently being conducted to see if Solano County could sustain a level II center. Which hospital would get the designation remains to be seen, Mr. Selby said.
“That’s when competition would come into play,” he said, adding the assessment should be completed sometime in 2012.
Mr. Huddleston said that, upon learning of Kaiser’s plans in Vacaville, NorthBay would be open to the idea developing its level II center in Fairfield, where it could ostensibly draw patients from Southern Solano, which includes Vallejo and Benicia.