FAIRFIELD -- NorthBay Medical Center has been named Solano County's first trauma center after a five-member assessment team on Sept. 9 evaluated the emergency services and trauma support systems.VacaValley Hospital to get $118 million makeoverSept. 26, 2011

VACAVILLE — VacaValley Hospital will soon undergo a $118 million renovation, a project that will double the size of the current hospital.

“The survey team felt that NorthBay Medical Center’s application and on-site review demonstrate your hospital’s commitment to providing excellent trauma care," wrote County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas and Ted Selby, administrator of the Solano County, in a  joint letter to trauma program leaders.

They added, “The successful achievement of a trauma designation is commendable.”

It has been a year since NorthBay Healthcare, which operates the Fairfield hospital and VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, first unveiled a plan to open a level III trauma Center by the end of 2011.

The designation process will be completed within 90 days when county health officials and NorthBay sign a trauma center agreement that paves the way for emergency responders – police, firefighters, paramedics and ambulance companies – to deliver patients with traumatic injuries to the Fairfield hospital. The trauma center will significantly lessen the need to send seriously injured residents out of county for care.

In addition, some suggestions made by the surveyors during their visit already are being implemented, including reconfiguring and enhancing the trauma treatment room. NorthBay officials said work was under way on other improvements that will be accomplished quickly.

NorthBay Healthcare officials said Solano County was one of the few counties its size within California that did not have a designated trauma center within its boundaries.

Designation as a level III center means emergency medical services personnel can now bring trauma patients to the Fairfield hospital’s Emergency Department for treatment.  Patients will be triaged in the field according to criteria for treatment at the appropriate level of trauma care.  Patients with neurological injuries will continue to be transported to Level 1 and Level 2 trauma centers.

About 1,000 trauma cases occur every year in Solano County, according to state statistics that show 42 percent are transferred out of the county, typically to trauma centers in Walnut Creek or Sacramento. Most are a result of traffic crashes -- 50 percent -- and falls, at 39 percent. Less than 7 percent of traumatic injuries are a result of assaults.

“This is a life-saving advancement of medicine for residents of Solano County,” noted Gary Passama, president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare. “We didn’t just decide to do this. This has been part of our long-range strategic plan for many, many years. Our role as the independent, community-based healthcare provider is to bring to local residents the medical services that do not exist here.”

During the last three years, NorthBay Healthcare built the infrastructure for trauma care and other advanced medical services. It began by putting into place around-the-clock in-house physician staffing for general surgery, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, anesthesia, OB-GYN and critical care medicine, all of which provide a strong foundation for a high-quality trauma medical team.

“We created that system to improve the care for all patients,” said Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group, which directly manages operations in NorthBay Medical Center and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. “But it was the underpinnings of creating a trauma center.”

Ms. Sugiyama added, “Clinical systems needed to be created. Surgery and intensive care units had to be integrated into our trauma system. Thousands of hours of staff training were accomplished, quality monitoring was put into place and community education started.”

The program was developed under the guidance of Kathy Richerson, vice president and chief nursing officer at NorthBay, who had helped with the implementation of trauma services in her previous role in a Sacramento hospital.

“We can be proud of this accomplishment,” Ms. Richerson said. “It required tremendous dedication to create something our community really needs. The team at NorthBay never wavered in its mission to deliver this program to those we serve. We knew we would be saving lives because we could eliminate the long transport times to other hospitals farther away. And we knew we could keep families of trauma victims closer to their loved ones, which quite often helps the recovery process.”

Dr. J. Peter Zopfi is the trauma medical director and chief of surgery. Daman Mott, R.N., is director of Emergency Department and Trauma Services, assisted by Heather Venezio, R.N., trauma program director. Ms. Richerson noted that NorthBay has been the leader in filling the gaps in the county’s healthcare delivery system by investing in new technology and facilities. The trauma program follows NorthBay’s pioneering efforts in providing neonatal intensive care for newborns, the first accredited cancer center in the county, the only advanced heart and vascular center offering open-heart surgery, along with programs for wound care, joint replacement and women’s health.

Kaiser Permanente also intends on opening a level III trauma center at its Vacaville hospital, likely by the end of this year, giving Solano County two trauma centers.