Excitement bubbled Tuesday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vacaville, where officials heralded the opening of Solano County's second Level III trauma facility. The first -- at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield -- opened in September.  "We know that with this important level of care, the people who live in this area (and others) will benefit," said Max Villalobos, Kaiser's senior vice president. "We are excited that we are finally here."

The new designation means that trauma patients will receive aid including emergency resuscitation, surgery and intensive care. Since the hospital's "soft opening" on Oct. 17 an estimated 15 to 20 patients, including one at 4 a.m. Tuesday, have already been treated. And officials' preparations have proved successful.

"We've already learned that having them here, ready to go, is instrumental in saving lives," the administrator advised, regarding the team of top medical professionals assembled in-house, from surgeons to specialists to nursing staff and more.

Dr. Steven Stricker, physician-in-chief and chief of staff, described the Vacaville facility as "the most beautiful, incredible, wonderful medical center in the United States of America," called his team "world class" and emphasized that patients will receive comparable care.

He also promised that Kaiser would bring Solano's first neurological center to Vacaville next year, with plans to upgrade the trauma facility to Solano's first Level II center, which would make it Kaiser's second Level II center in Northern California. Its first is in South Sacramento.

With its location between Level II centers in Walnut Creek (John Muir Medical Center) and Sacramento (University of California, Davis, Medical Center), Vacaville is in a great position to grow its services, Stricker said.

"We are so lucky," he added.

Having a trauma center within the city, said Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy, could change lives.

"In Vacaville, people will live who wouldn't have otherwise without the care," he said. "I'm very proud of this."

Dr. Mark Hawk, chief of neurosurgery with Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Region, pledged unrivaled care.

"There was a statement made that we opened the finest trauma center in Sacramento and we promise nothing short of that here," he said.

A permanent helipad is being sought for the facility and plans are already in the works to upgrade the trauma center's designation.