Monday, April 25, 2005

Solano health care facilites to receive funding injection

Article Last Updated: Friday, Apr 22, 2005 - 10:49:59 pm PDT

Solano health care to receive funding injection

By Sarah Arnquist

FAIRFIELD - Anticipating that Solano County's population growth will continue, the health-care industry plans to pour millions into future expansion projects here, industry leaders said Friday.

Top executives from Kaiser Permanente, NorthBay Healthcare System and Sutter Health affiliates discussed multimillion dollar expansion projects at a breakfast sponsored by the Solano Economic Development Corp., delighting local government and business representatives.

These investments mean quality improvement for Solano County residents, said Michael Ammann, Solano EDC president."Long term, it gives us a better health-care system within our county for the folks who live here as well as those who will be coming here," Ammann said.

Solano County is the fastest growing county in the Bay Area, projected to increase one-third by 2025. All the local hospitals have recently expanded their emergency departments or have immediate plans to do so to meet the growing need.

The health-care industry is one of the largest employment sectors in Solano County, employing about 12,000 people, according to the Solano EDC.Kaiser expects to bring hundreds of trade jobs to Vacaville while constructing a new hospital and medical office center, and add 1,000 permanent jobs to staff the new facility in 2009, said Deborah Romer, Napa and Solano area manager for Kaiser.

Solano County's greatest need is critical care services, said Gary Passama, NorthBay chief executive officer. NorthBay plans to bring more advanced specialty care to Solano County and someday upgrade its trauma services, he said.The health companies are gambling that Solano's population will continue growing to support the million-dollar capital investments. Based on trends, they agreed the situation looks positive.Kaiser has more construction plans for Solano County than any area in Northern California, Romer said.

"The growth of Solano is unique," Romer said. "We know people are coming here."The health-care providers face some challenges as they grow such as recruiting enough skilled physicians and nurses and managing the growing number of uninsured patients, Passama said.

The average age for doctors and nurses in California is over 50, and the state's high concentration of managed care and high cost of living makes it difficult to recruit younger physicians, said John Ray, chief executive officer of Sutter Regional Medical Foundation.

NorthBay affiliated medical groups have found smaller offices, with fewer physicians close to people's neighborhoods to be the most effective way to grow, Passama said.Sutter has similar expansions planned for Benicia and Rio Vista, Ray said."It's important for us to be where the people live," Passama said.

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or

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