The Solano Emergency Medical Services Cooperative Board unanimously decided Thursday to approve a recommendation from an Independent Review Panel of experts and the American College of Surgeons that Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center be designated as the sole Level II trauma center in the county.
"It validates the great care and services we offer," said Max Villalobos, area manager for Kaiser Permanente Solano and Napa service areas. "It's an honor and we're humbled that the experts saw us as the right choice."
The announcement ends the competition between Kaiser and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield to offer a higher level of trauma care service.
Both hospitals are designated Level III trauma centers, but only one may receive the Level II designation based on the current Solano County population and need. A Level II trauma center adds neurological services.
NorthBay representatives were sullen after the announcement.
"While we are disappointed in their conclusions, we respect the process," said Gary Passama, president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare. "We still believe we are the better choice because of our experience as Solano County's busiest trauma center, and our more complete array of service lines, including obstetrics and cardiovascular care. Our track record of overwhelmingly positive patient outcomes speaks for itself.
He assured the board that NorthBay Trauma Care "will continue to treat most trauma patients because of its central location."
Villalobos said Kaiser's Vacaville hospital is already functioning as a Level II trauma center with 24/7 trauma coverage and 24/7 neurosurgery coverage, and plans to be designated by the American College of Surgeons on Nov. 20.
Additionally, the hospital will open its labor and delivery wing that has been empty since the hospital was built.
"We made the commitment to open it," Villalobos said, adding that it will open Nov. 5 and be staffed by personnel from other Kaiser hospitals.
During a presentation in Thursday's meeting, Dr. Nels Sanddal, American College of Surgeons Manager of Trauma Systems and Trauma Center Verification Programs, said that both hospitals are operating effectively as Level III trauma centers.
The independent review panel consisted of two trauma surgeons, an emergency physician, a trauma program manager, a prehospital care provider, a local department director of health or emergency management agency and an EMS agency administrator. The experts also were from out of Solano County or the state. The experts first scored the hospitals based on applications before site visits. After site visits and more clarification, they were able to adjust those scores, Sanddal explained.
The aggregate scoring of the experts on the Independent Review Panel showed that Kaiser scored the highest in nearly every category, except in two areas where Kaiser and NorthBay tied. The total score for Kaiser was 5,792 and NorthBay's score is 5,539, a difference of 253.