Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fairfield community hospital to double lab facilities

Fairfield community hospital to double lab facilities
Monday, January 26, 2009

FAIRFIELD – Northern Solano County’s sole community hospital will soon break ground on the latest in more than $15 million in expansions aimed at increasing revenues and adding advanced cardiac services to the region for the first time.

The most recent project, a $5.5 million, 4,000-square-foot lab, will break ground at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield this week and double the size of the current facility when it is completed in about a year.

“Planning, permits and funding have held up the project in the past, but the new lab is a necessity,” said Bridgit Strachan, vice president of quality and professional support services.

The new building will be located at the front of the campus near the emergency department, and the vacated 1,800-square-foot lab will eventually be transformed into a pharmacy when funding is available. Though some patients will receive care at the site, the building will primarily be used for blood work and other analysis.

The lab construction comes on the heels of the groundbreaking for the center’s new complex-procedure cardiac center, which will officially open in April. Planning for the NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center began more than two years ago, but funding for the $10 million planning and construction price tag did not become available until last July.

Two operating rooms were merged to form one 8,000-square-foot surgical suite and cauterization labs, and equipment was also upgraded. When completed, the facility will allow the hospital to see an estimated 1,400 more patients a year that were previously turned away. NorthBay spokesman Steve Huddle-ston said in addition to offering complex heart surgeries locally for the first time, the center will also be an important new source of revenue for the hospital.

As the area’s community hospital, Medi-Cal and Medicaid patients account for about 25 percent of its revenue, but the hospital was reimbursed at a rate lower than what it costs to provide the care. Mr. Huddleston said heart procedures are generally well-funded and will help the hospital stay afloat for anticipated future state reductions.

“The greatest challenge for a nonprofit community hospital is Medicare and Medi-Cal, and it’s not looking any better,” he said. “They are talking about another 10 percent reductions. … That is another $3 million right off the top.”

In addition to the Fairfield hospital, NorthBay Healthcare also operates the VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville as well as the NorthBay Cancer Center and NorthBay Center for Primary Care.