16. No Surprise that a Walk-Away Wasn’t Hard to Spot
Security Supervisor Bryan Berggren has worked at NorthBay Healthcare since June 1995, and only remembers one instance of trouble involving a state prisoner/patient in Vacaville. An out-of-area correctional team had a prisoner in one of the reinforced VacaValley rooms but apparently the officer at the monitor wasn’t as attentive as he should have been, and the inmate-patient walked away. “Fortunately, he was arrested shortly after that in Vacaville,” recalls Bryan.
It undoubtedly is hard to blend in when you’re wearing a hospital gown.
17. Patients Much Sicker In the ICU of Today
Ellen Tortorete, R.N., and clinical manager for NorthBay’s ICU/Step Down units, has come a long way since her days as a candy striper. She was recruited to VacaValley Hospital 25 years ago, and hasn’t looked back. What she loves about NorthBay, she says, is the chance to always improve her skills and experience.
“They really encourage you to grow and try different things,” she says. So after getting her start on 1 West, she moved into the ICU at VacaValley where she stayed for 15 years. Now, as clinical manager, she is responsible for units at both hospitals.
She says that on the whole, patients seem sicker these days. In the old days, someone could check themselves in for back spasms. Now, because of the cost of health insurance, people are waiting until they’re critically ill to come to the hospital.
18. Adult Day Center Inspired Volunteer
Bob Panzer has donated more than 1,000 volunteer hours to NorthBay Guild, spending much of his time these days at the desk of the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, just past the lobby in VacaValley Hospital.
Bob’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s in the final years of her life, he said, and was a client of the NorthBay Adult Day Center, which is also on the VacaValley Hospital campus. “It was a huge help for us,” recalls Bob. After she passed, he wanted to give back. The resource center was established 1996 to help the families of those with Alzheimers’s disease and other forms of dementia find much-needed resources and reference materials on diseases.
Bob also facilitates the monthly caregiver support group, which he began attending in 1999. The Alzheimer’s Resource Center is open Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information, call 624-7971 or 624-7970.
19. First Baby Born Here Must Remain a Mystery
Vacaville didn’t have—and still doesn’t have—labor and delivery rooms. There’s a whole floor at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield dedicated to the mother-baby experience. But sometimes babies and their moms just aren’t that picky. Patrick Garner, R.N., remembers when the first baby was born in the emergency room, he was quick to ask the mom for a photo consent.
He snapped the photo before she and her healthy baby son were whisked away for recovery at NorthBay Medical Center. But hours later, she had second thoughts and rescinded permission, which is why we’re not naming names or showing a photo of VacaValley’s first baby.
20. The Fix-it Team Is Always on Call
Engineering Mechanics Tony Molina and Larry Stinnett are proud to be a part of the “Fix-it” Team. “A lot of people think about the hospital as this safe, sanitary place where everything is sterile, and it is, but keeping it that way is our job,” explains Tony.
“If anything goes wrong—a toilet backs up, burned popcorn triggers the smoke detector, the air conditioning or heater isn’t working—we rush in. We’re on call 24/7. Sometimes it’s as simple as a phone call, other times we have to drop everything and go to work until the crisis is over.”
Tony remembers one particularly challenging day—the rain just kept pounding and the streets in Vacaville were flooding. “We had to put on rain gear and wade out there and unclog the storm drains,” he recalls. And then came hours filling and strategically placing sandbags. “It was exhausting, but we got it done,” he says.
A lot of the engineers’ time is spent on the “penthouse” floor, the third floor that most patients and employees never see, says Larry. It’s where access to all the various heat and air systems reside. The team has a special key to be able to take the elevator to the third floor, and to call for an elevator when they come down.
Every once in a while, an unsuspecting nurse and patient are summoned up to the third floor. “Sometimes, when those doors open, they just aren’t prepared to see two big guys holding tools,” smiles Larry. “I remember one nurse who just wouldn’t stop screaming.”
“Fortunately, most folks have a good sense of humor,” adds Tony. “I know one time the doors opened and we were standing there holding big tools and I said, ‘We’re ready for your surgery.’ Thank goodness the patient laughed.”