NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield has earned the prestigious verification as a Level II trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, the first hospital in Solano County to achieve the distinction.

“It’s the gold standard that we have sought to reach since the beginning,” said Kathy Richerson, vice president and chief nursing officer who was part of the initial planning of the trauma program nearly a decade ago. “This is an incredible accomplishment by a highly skilled, dedicated and talented team.”


In a July 2 letter to Richerson, the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) extended its congratulations. Two noted surgeons, Dr. Art Ney and Dr. Walter Biffl, conducted a rigorous examination of NorthBay Trauma Center and supporting departments during a May 5-6 visit.


Their final report noted no deficiencies and highlighted 20 strengths of the program, including the “institutional support at the physician, nursing, and administrative levels for the trauma program with obvious esprit de corps.”

NorthBay Medical Center began providing trauma care in 2011. It was first in Solano County to achieve verification as a Level III center from the ACS in December 2012.


“From the beginning, NorthBay Healthcare’s plan was to develop the most comprehensive, most advanced trauma program we could, which meant achieving this national recognition,” explained Deborah Sugiyama, president of NorthBay Healthcare Group. “Everyone has been working hard to ensure all aspects of our program meet more than 200 Level II ACS standards.”


Undeterred when Solano County chose another hospital as its designated Level II trauma center in October 2013, NorthBay Healthcare continued to develop a range of advanced surgical procedures available 24/7, including neurosurgery. The addition of neurosurgery was the last major achievement in elevating trauma services from Level III to Level II.


So far in Solano County, only NorthBay Medical Center has been verified as a Level II center.


The county’s designated Level II trauma center is in Vacaville, but has yet to be verified by the ACS. Some, but not all, patients with head and spinal injuries are transported via ambulance there per a county-mandated protocol even though NorthBay’s Fairfield hospital is closer.


That protocol will not change following the verification of NorthBay’s Level II program.


But because some patients need immediate treatment, NorthBay Trauma Center currently receives some Level II patients, and will continue to do so, noted Dr. J. Peter Zopfi, trauma medical director. “The protocol takes into consideration that some patients need to get to the nearest trauma center because time is of the essence. And many times, a Level II patient will arrive in a private vehicle, or walk in to our emergency department. Those patients will get immediate care from us.”


NorthBay’s Fairfield hospital handles more than 60 percent of all local trauma cases.


Heather Venezio, trauma program director at NorthBay Medical Center, said the central location of the Fairfield hospital makes it the busiest trauma center in the county. “Overall, trauma care in the county will only get better because of the more advanced emergency care that is available,” she said.


A Level II center is prepared for most trauma situations, except for burn victims and major injuries to infants and children.


“Most importantly,” Richerson added, “all of the hospitals in our region are part of a coordinated trauma system, supporting each other and backing up each other when needed. Becoming a Level II center means we can add that much more support to the county system and its leadership, while collaborating with our partner hospitals in Solano, Napa and Contra Costa counties.”


She added, “We didn’t consider scrapping our program when we were not chosen the county’s designated center. Our program has elevated the quality and competence of care throughout our hospital. It raises the bar and makes our team better because of the additional training and experience everyone receives.”


For adult patients, traumatic injuries include rib fractures; collapsed lungs; internal organ injuries to the spleen, liver, kidneys, diaphragm and bowel; fractured bones; back and spine fractures; trauma to spinal cord and head; and severe wounds and lacerations.