By Paul Sisson
North County Times
Minor refurbishment has begun at the downtown campus of Palomar Medical Center, but major work, including the grand vision of closing Valley Boulevard to accommodate a new medical plaza west of the hospital, is still a ways off, according to a presentation made by hospital administrators Tuesday night.
Palomar Health, the public health care district that runs the downtown Escondido hospital and Pomerado Hospital in Poway, is set to open its new $1 billion hospital in west Escondido on Aug. 19.
Hospital planners told board members Tuesday that about $645,000 will be spent on refurbishing the old hospital this year. That money will go toward sprucing up the common areas of the hospital, including those in the main lobby, cafeteria, labor and delivery and outpatient rehabilitation.
"We want to freshen the place up. We want a new look and feel," said Mike Shanahan, Palomar's director of facilities and planning.
The existing emergency room at the old hospital will also begin serving as an urgent care department when the new hospital opens and all emergency functions move west. At first, Palomar intends to keep enough doctors and other personnel available at the downtown hospital to stabilize and transfer any emergency patients that still come to the old ER rather than the new one.
Eventually, in a second phase of renovation for the downtown hospital, Palomar would spend nearly $900,000 to convert about half of the old downtown ER to an urgent-care department.
That second phase of redevelopment entails a total of $4 million in improvements. Shanahan and Sheila Brown, the health care system's chief clinical outreach officer, said that the second phase of expansion would include converting hospital rooms on the building's seventh floor into a new, larger, postpartum ward. Rooms that are now designed to serve two patients would be converted for use by a single mother and baby.
Other parts of the hospital would be used to expand Palomar's acute rehabilitation and mental health departments. Outpatient women's surgeries now performed off-site at an outpatient surgery center could also be brought into the downtown hospital.
At present, Palomar's chief financial officer said funding for the second phase of redevelopment has not been identified and no firm timeline has been set.
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