SOLANO COUNTY -- Both Kaiser Permanente and NorhthBay Healthcare applied for a level II trauma care designation in Solano County, with Kaiser vying for designation at its Vacaville Medical Center and NorthBay at its Medical Center in Fairfield.

With applications filed to the Solano County Emergency Services Cooperative, a team of trauma physicians from the American College of Surgeons will now assess both proposals and make a recommendation to the co-op by Oct. 10.  Between now and then, the five surgeons will inspect the hospitals in mid August before the final recommendation. The co-op can then decide if it agrees and issue its decision.  Only one hospital can be get the level II designation, unless a specific exception is granted based on population needs, according to the co-op.

Until recently, Solano County had no trauma center, meaning seriously injured patients had to be sent out of county, often to Sacramento or Contra Costa County. Both Kaiser and Fairfield-based NorthBay Healthcare filed for and received level III designation in 2011.

The 64-bed Kaiser Hospital, currently a level III trauma center, said it is seeking the increased designation from the co-op "to expand its emergency services to better serve the region’s residents who sustain severe injuries."

NorthBay Healthcare is seeking the level II designation for its Fairfield Medical Center, which it says is best equipped and has been preparing for a trauma center more than 10 years.

"This has been a very well thought out,  methodical process that began with a vision of becoming Solano County's most advanced hospital," Steve Huddleston, a spokesman for NorthBay, told the Business Journal.

Mr. Huddleston said NorthBay is well-equipped to provide the care because of significant advancements and investments in a number of areas of medicine, among them a neonatal intensive care unit, heart and vascular surgeons able to perform open-heart surgery and other areas.

Kaiser said it's best prepared to offer the higher level of trauma care because its Vacaville hospital, constructed in 2009, offers the "largest and most experienced" neurosurgery practice. Kaiser points to that as the main difference between a level II and a level III trauma center.

“The depth and breadth of our expertise, coupled with our affordability and convenient location, makes Kaiser Permanente the best choice for level II trauma designation,” said Max Villalobos, hospital administrator, in a statement. “We are proud of the emergency service we provide, and we look forward to continuing to serve those throughout the community who need us most.”

The neurosurgery program at Vacaville is supported by 15 neurosurgeons and the latest technologies, providing highly specialized care using the least invasive techniques, according to Kaiser.

Before it had a trauma center, seriously injured residents of Solano County were typically transferred to level I or level II hospitals like John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek or to University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento. The key difference between level I and level II is that a level I is a teaching facility.