Monday, September 24, 2007

20 Years Of Caring

20 Years Of Caring
VacaValley Hospital Celebrates Anniversary With New Facility
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

VacaValley's new surgery center will be opened for tours Sept. 29. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

Pat Hayes remembers coming to visit VacaValley Hospital right before it opened in June of 1987. "It was just a big empty shell," she recalls.

Hayes, a registered nurse, came to work at VacaValley's emergency room after spending several years at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield - known back then as Intercommunity Hospital. She said she wanted to be part of something new, and knew that it wouldn't be easy.

"When you're starting from scratch, you're making the beginning," she said. "That's the biggest challenge."

Employees like Hayes are looking back at that beginning as the hospital celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Much has changed in the past two decades. As the city grew, the hospital saw more patients and began offering more services. Its latest additions include a new emergency department, a joint replacement center, and an outpatient surgery center scheduled to open in November, all with the latest technology available in medicine.

Back in 1987, the biggest challenge was getting people to understand the need for a hospital in Vacaville, and believe in the hospital's ability to succeed.

"People thought that Vacaville wasn't ready for a hospital," said Joanie Erickson, spokesperson for NorthBay Healthcare, parent company of VacaValley Hospital and NorthBay Medical Center. "We had a hospital in Fairfield and people in Vacaville were used to coming to it. A lot of nay-sayers said Vacaville wasn't big enough or sophisticated enough for its own hospital."

What led to success was a growing community, a need to relieve NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, and - Erickson said - a general shift in attitude.

Today, the hospital has much to be proud of. The 10,000-square-foot emergency department features separate urgent and non-urgent sections, a private OB-GYN suite, and a cast room, just to name a few. The Joint Replacement Program is specially designed for people undergoing knee and hip joint replacements, and focuses on education prior to surgery and a group approach to recovery. The 12,000- square-foot Surgery Center features three operating rooms, three procedure rooms, and two rooms for pain management procedures, as well as private pre-op rooms and recovery rooms.

But the 90,000-square-foot hospital has seen more than just physical changes. NorthBay Healthcare spokesperson Joanie Erickson said new technology has meant less overnight stays and shorter recovery times for patients. As the community grows and nearby traffic increases, the hospital has seen more patients and more crime-related and traffic-related injuries, with 1,700 hospital admissions just last year.

And, with the Baby Boomer generation aging, more of those patients are older and sicker.

"That's a big challenge," said Erickson, who added that VacaValley is one of many U.S. hospitals struggling to find beds for all its patients. Finding staff can also be difficult, according to Erickson, because of a growing nursing shortage and long waiting lists at nursing schools.

Despite some of the challenges, VacaValley Hospital continues to serve thousands of patients a year. It competes with two larger healthcare organizations - Kaiser and Sutter, both of whom continue to expand their offerings. Erickson said VacaValley Hospital differentiates itself from the other organizations by offering advanced services at its hospital.

"If you're Kaiser or Sutter, advanced services patients are often sent to facilities in Sacramento or San Francisco," Erickson explained. "Here at (NorthBay Healthcare) we only provide local care. We believe in investing in the technology here and the services here because we're only here. That's why we offer a lot of things that aren't offered elsewhere (in Solano County)."

What the future holds for VacaValley Hospital is still unclear, although Erickson indicated growth will continue to be part of the plan. The 20-acre parcel on which VacaValley is built leaves room for growth, and Erickson said that as the community continues to grow, the hospital may add more patient care wings and other services as technology becomes available.

"When the hospital was built, it was built to grow," she said."

Contact Shelly Meron at

If you go
WHAT: VacaValley Hospital's 20th anniversary celebration; the event will include free health screenings, medical demonstrations, music and entertainment, children's activities, prizes, refreshments, and tours of the new Surgery Center.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 29
WHERE: VacaValley Hospital, 1000 Nut Tree Road, Vacaville
DETAILS: 429-7789 or

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