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.

Howlers | Main | Taking a Step Back

Howlers, Part 2

Earlier this week I sent a "howler" - a la Harry Potter - to Kaiser Permanente because of an email message sent to their members which circumvents the process under way to designate Solano County's first Level II trauma center. NorthBay Healthcare and Kaiser both seek to earn that distinction.

In Harry's world a howler is a screeching, scolding message. The Oakland crowd deserved that one. And now another.

The process of deciding which hospital will be the sole Level II trauma center was designed, debated and adopted by the joint powers authority that oversees emergency medical services in Solano County. It fittingly decided the criteria should be clinical excellence, not public opinion or political muscle. It's now clear the folks from Oakland just don't get it.

When asked to write a PR email in support, one of its own members, who forwarded the email to us, replied, "Sorry, Kaiser, NorthBay's got this one!"

So now, posted on their website, comes misleading propaganda and some outright falsehoods as they unjustly compare NorthBay Medical Center's trauma service to Kaiser's in Vacaville.

It appears they have little or no confidence in earning the Level II trauma designation on the clinical merits of their case. Their underutilized Vacaville hospital has few specialty services, no where near the overall level of complexity and sophistication of those at NorthBay Medical Center. Ours is a much more experienced trauma center than the facility in Vacaville by a ratio of 3-to-1.

NorthBay Healthcare first started doing neurosurgery in the 1980s and continued it until the retirement of a key neurosurgeon. We recently revived the service line, bringing to Solano County an outstanding neurosurgeon who promptly got very busy. He heads a team of six other similarly distinguished neurosurgeons who back him up. We are providing second opinions for Kaiser patients looking for alternatives. Meanwhile, Kaiser continues to cite their new program as if it were the only one.

Another outright misleading statement concerns the capabilities of NorthBay Medical Center and their Vacaville hospital relative to physician support. They deserve an especially loud howler for their assertions. NorthBay Medical Center has a much more robust cadre of in-house specialists - from obstetricians to orthopedic surgeons - that is simply not matched in Kaiser's Vacaville facility.

The most obvious deception is their claim about geographic location. They erroneously assert that NorthBay Medical Center is seven minutes from Interstate 80, while their hospital is "right on I-80." Perhaps they expect an ambulance with siren blasting to halt at every stoplight on Travis Boulevard, and maybe pull over at Starbucks on the way. While theirs is just off I-80, it is true that it sits on the eastern outskirts of Vacaville, further from the population center of Solano.

Perhaps this is a cloaking device to hide a critical weakness in their proposal: Their hospital is too far from most people in Solano County who may become victims of traumatic injury. A study shows that 51 percent of Solano residents live within 15 minutes of NorthBay Medical Center, but only 38 percent live within 15 minutes of Kaiser Vacaville. But even more telling, 96 percent of Solano residents live with 25 minutes of NorthBay Medical Center, but only 60 percent live within 25 minutes of Kaiser Vacaville.

When it comes to trauma care, the travel time to definitive care makes a difference.

Beware of what you hear from the Oakland folks. Spending tens of thousands of dollars to spread untruths does not make them true.