Gary J. Passama, President and Chief Executive Officer of NorthBay Healthcare System since 1987, is a 39-year veteran of health care in Northern California. He has served as faculty and speaker for programs of the American Hospital Association, Hospital Council of Northern California and the Medical Group Management Association. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
From the CEO

The Mouse Knows

My youngest son and his wife took their three young sons, ages 6, 4 and 2, to Disneyland for Easter. They love the Magic Kingdom and go there two or three times a year.

My wife and I were getting frequent text messages from them during their Disney adventure, complete with photos and videos of the two oldest boys, who were pulled from the audience to participate in a Jedi Star Wars show. We were greatly amused to see our two Jedi grandsons polishing off intergalactic villains during the show.


Brains, Spines and Souls

For at least 25 years the trend in health care has been for hospitals and smaller health care systems to merge with larger entities. Many an expert pundit has written an article touting the trend and many a consultant has made good money by advising client hospitals to join the big guys.

From my perspective, when these ill-advised mergers occurred it was the result of a board without a brain - or spine - and a management without a soul.


When Good News is Bad News

Last Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle had the kind of article about health care costs which is always guaranteed to catch my eye. It is an example of what is good news to most is bad news to some.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease afflicting over three million Americans. Treating it is difficult. Curing it is problematical given existing therapies. It can lead to life-threatening conditions, including liver cancer. The lifetime cost of treating a hepatitis C patient can easily exceed $100,000.


Time Well Spent

Max badge

Sometimes it seems like health care is all about economics. How will Obamacare impact it? How can physicians and hospitals cope with yet another round of Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts? Can we afford to continue certain services or should they be closed?

Then there are days like last Friday.
In NorthBay's Green Valley Conference Center more than 100 folks came together to recognize the impact of volunteers of the NorthBay Guild. Volunteers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders.  Some even come equipped with four paws.


Something to Think About

The Wall Street Journal this week had an article about so-called "retail medical clinics," staffed by nurse practitioners and operated across the country inside stores like CVS, Walgreen's, Target and Wal-Mart. Current count is about 1,600 of these clinics nationwide. These strictly cash and credit card businesses leave it to you to deal with the hassle of filing a claim for reimbursement with your health plan (if you have one).


Listening to the Voice of the Consumer

We strive to inform our constituents about developments in health care delivery that likely will affect us. It's good to know what's coming and plan accordingly. So twice a year, April and October, we bring speakers to NorthBay Healthcare's Green Valley conference center to address our management staff, board members, affiliated physicians and medical staff leaders.


Too Soon to Tell

It's been awhile, but let me return to the tangle that is the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare").

The enrollment process, whether state-controlled as in California or by the feds as in a majority of the states, has been fraught with problems.

Information about how many eligible people actually signed up by Monday's deadline, and their demographics, seem to change daily. That leaves the impression that no one really has a handle on what is going on.


No Puppets Allowed

If you need medical care after your doctor's office is closed, where do you get it?

If you look to NorthBay Healthcare for your family's health needs we have choices for you. We are working hard to make our care accessible where and when you need it.


Getting in the Flow

For NorthBay Healthcare, the journey to apply the principles of "Lean" to improve our patient care follows a path that helps us learn from others. As I mentioned previously, I accompanied several NorthBay staffers to Winona, Minn., last year to visit a small healthcare system which was very advanced in applying Lean to its operations - with extraordinary results.



In my quarterly open staff meetings, a topic of yesterday's entry, there was a serious issue that I was saving for another time - if necessary. Today it is necessary because we are under attack.

SEIU United Healthcare Workers has unilaterally decided to try to qualify two initiatives for the November ballot. It has on-going disputes with other unions, so its leaders probably think they need to elevate their profile. SEIU yesterday, as part of its campaign to obtain signatures to get on the ballot, issued a press release criticizing NorthBay Healthcare's prices and my salary. The initiative campaign uses the same tactics used in the past to mislead the public regarding our prices.