Gary J. Passama, President and Chief Executive Officer of NorthBay Healthcare System since 1981, is a veteran of more than 40 years in Northern California health care. 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.

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On Being Second

There was a news event of sorts last week in Vacaville when a second hospital unveiled Vacaville's second hospital based heliport - 26 years after the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital helicopter operations began.

Our Vacaville hospital's heliport was integral to the facility's original design, not an afterthought. It was made possible by a donation from the Power family of Nut Tree fame and is dedicated to the memory of a member of that family. The Power name is on a plaque at the helipad site.

One of the things I do at NorthBay's monthly new-employee orientation is have some fun with the healthcare mega systems in our midst, particularly the one based in Oakland. I point out the fundamental differences between NorthBay and that lumbering giant.  

For example, the helipad builder from Oakland is a card-carrying membership organization. NorthBay's two hospitals are community hospitals, open to all. No card necessary.

When we recruit medical specialists to the community they are available to all, including members of the Oakland organization.  In that way, it's the difference between Costco and Nugget Market, or perhaps, Safeway.

At every new employee session there is at least one, and usually more, new NorthBay staffers who are leaving the Oakland system, or who have chosen to work part-time at NorthBay and keep their other job, too.  When I ask why they have come to NorthBay, the answers usually fall into the following categories:

→ They want to work for an organization with real ties to the community;
→ They like innovation and the other organization is too large for real innovation to occur; or
→ They want to work in an organization where there are advanced medical services not available at the other hospital.

I have heard those answers so often over the years that I am no longer surprised.

The helipads at both of our hospitals have accepted and transported thousands of patients over the years. It means we are frequently placed on standby for VIPs traveling in the area - most recently candidates for president, U.S. Senate and governor.

So congratulations to the members-only organization for bringing a second hospital helipad to Vacaville, thereby joining us in providing this critical need for our community.

We thought it was a great idea as well - in 1987.