VacaValley’s Vibrant Past Remains Fresh in Minds of Staff, Physicians, Volunteers
With 25 years under its proverbial belt, NorthBay VacaValley Hospital has a rich and storied past. Oh, if only the walls and halls could talk. They can’t, but employees, administrators, volunteers and physicians can and did.
Here we share 25 recollections —some monumental, some just plain memorable—that comprise the pieces of the patchwork quilt that is VacaValley Hospital’s history.
1. When Climate Changed,VacaValley First in Line
The first memory actually predates the birth of the hospital. NorthBay Healthcare President and CEO Gary Passama recalls the political atmosphere in the 1980s wasn’t friendly toward new hospitals. But when Gov. George Deukmejian was elected, an opportunity materialzed.
“Deukmejian made it clear that he would be favorable to new projects. So in a two-month period, we put together a plan, gained local agency approval, and then made a mad dash to Sacramento. There were three of us from NorthBay, and we were joined by then-Vacaville City Manager Walt Graham.
“We didn’t have an appointment, we just showed up unannounced on a director’s doorstep in Sacramento one day and refused to budge until he saw us. His secretary kindly took our paperwork in for review. We waited two-and-a-half hours, but it was worth it, because his secretary popped out and said, ‘He’s approved it.’”
2. Grand Opening Filled With Fun, Games, Races
The grand opening of the hospital stretched over three days and preceded the opening of the hospital, too. There were events for the public, senior citizens, board members, and new employees, including tours, gurney races, games for children, and speeches by local notables, including some who have since passed away: former Vacaville Mayor and Supervisor Bill Carroll, who was instrumental in getting the public campaign for the hospital up and running, and Manuel Campos, who was chairman of the NorthBay Healthcare Board of Directors at the time.
3. Physician Gets to Create Emergency Department
Dr. Craig Dennis started his association with NorthBay Healthcare 30 years ago, and his first stint in Vacaville involved an urgent care center on Peabody Road, which was NorthBay Healthcare’s way of dipping a toe into the Vacaville healthcare market. Both the trial balloon and Dr. Dennis were successful. He had a hand in creating the design of the Emergency Department and the privilege of working the first shift when VacaValley Hospital opened.
4. Tour Guide Needed a Little Guidance from the Surgeon
A memory of Patrick Garner, R.N., and administrative coordinator, also predates the opening of the facility, which occurred on July 1, 1987. Patrick was one of several nurses hired to staff the new facility. “One day we were meeting each other and learning about NorthBay standards and policies, the next day we were given the rundown on a facility we hardly knew. A week later, we were taking physicians, their friends and families on tours.”
Patrick remembers taking a group that included surgeon Robert Takamoto and his family through the facility. When he reached the recovery room, he told the crowd, “And this is the room where you’ll probably wake up after surgery.”
“No,” boomed Dr. Takamoto. “This is the room where you WILL wake up,” he corrected the young nurse. “Be sure you’re clear on that!”
5. A Time to Mourn; A Time for Compassion
A story of compassion out of the Emergency Department involved the death of a 2-year-old. It really hit home with Patti Bales, R.N., she says, because her own daughter was about the same age. “The little girl drowned, and despite our heroic efforts, there was just nothing we could do. The emergency room was really busy that day, every room was full and we had people in the waiting room, but I remember coming into the room, wrapping the little girl in a warm blanket and putting her in her mother’s arms. We just let her have her privacy. Her mother must have sat there for two hours rocking her and saying her goodbyes. I still get choked up thinking about it. Giving her the time and space was the right thing to do.”