Our Story - A History of Exceptional Community Care

Palomar Health ("the District") began with two community health care providers, a nurse and a dietician, who shared concerns about the healthcare needs of our community.  From that grassroots, community-led effort, the District has grown to become the largest public healthcare district in California and one of the seven largest in the United States, as well as being home to North San Diego County’s only designated trauma center.

In 1933, the first hospital in Escondido opened under the name Escondido Community Hospital.  In 1945, a citizens’ group formed the Escondido Valley Hospital Association, a nonprofit organization whose purpose was to raise funds to build a larger hospital.  In 1948, the Northern San Diego County Hospital District was formed, and it is known today as Palomar Health. In February 1950, Palomar Memorial Hospital opened with a capacity of 37 beds.  In 1985, the hospital achieved full designation as a trauma center, and the District acquired a convalescent center that was later renamed Palomar Continuing Care Center and has since been shuttered.    

In June 1977, Pomerado Hospital opened as the District’s second hospital, and today it is a 124-bed acute-care facility.  In 1987, Villa Pomerado, a skilled nursing facility, opened on the Pomerado Hospital campus, and Palomar Memorial Hospital was renamed Palomar Medical Center.  

In 2010, the District entered into a management agreement with Rady Children’s Hospital for pediatric services to be performed at Palomar Medical Center

After more than 200 town hall meetings with community members to discuss ideas for the future of healthcare in Inland North County San Diego, in November 2004, with nearly 70 percent support of the District's voters, Proposition BB—a bond measure that authorized financing for repairs of aging facilities and construction of a new facility—passed. In August 2012, the District’s third hospital, Palomar Medical Center, a 288-bed-acute care facility known as “The Hospital of the Future”, opened, providing 24-hour emergency and trauma, surgery, cardiology and cardiac catheterization, vascular, orthopedics, neuroscience, interventional radiology, rehabilitation and oncology surgery services. The original Palomar Medical Center remained open under a new name, Palomar Health Downtown Campus, specializing in labor and delivery, pediatrics and neonatal intensive care, acute rehabilitation and behavioral health services. The facility had 86 inpatient beds and also provided many outpatient services, including outpatient surgery, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, neurodiagnostic testing, sleep center, infusion center, cardiac rehabilitation and a standby Emergency Department.

After more than fifty years, in June 2015, the District made the decision to close the Palomar Health Downtown Campus and consolidate services at Palomar Medical Center and Pomerado Hospital. 

In February 2017, the District Board passed a resolution renaming all three hospitals:  Palomar Medical Center became Palomar Medical Center Escondido; Palomar Health Downtown Campus became Palomar Medical Center Downtown Escondido; and Pomerado Hospital became Palomar Medical Center Poway; and, in 2020, the skilled nursing facility Villa Pomerado was renamed The Villas at Poway

Understanding Healthcare Districts

Healthcare districts are public entities that provide community-based healthcare services to residents throughout the State of California. They respond to the needs in their district by providing a range of services, which may include a hospital, clinic, skilled nursing facility or emergency medical services, as well as education and wellness programs. Each of California’s healthcare districts is governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees who are directly accountable to the communities they serve.

As a public healthcare district, Palomar Health must abide by the California Public Records Act (Statute of 1968, Chapter 1473; currently codified as Chapter 3.5 of Division 7 of Title 1 of the California Government Code), a law passed by the California State Legislature and signed by then-Governor Ronald Reagen in 1968, requiring inespection or disclosure of governmental records to the public upon request, unless exempted by law.  The District's Public Records Request Form may be viewed and downloaded here.

The Local Agency Formation Commission ("LAFCO") is required by California State Law to establish a "Sphere of Influence" for each local governmental agency under LAFCO jurisdiction.  These Sphere of Influence and Service Reviews are conducted approximately every five years.  The District's LAFCO review from May 4, 2015, may be viewed on the LAFCO website by following this link.  The next review is scheduled to occur during LAFCO FY2021 or FY2022.

The California State Controller's Office maintains financial data in an open data format for over 4,800 California independent special districts, dependent special districts, joint powers authorities and nonprofit corporations. As an independent special district, the District's financial data can be found under the categories Revenues and Expenditures.

Click here to learn more about the Association of California Healthcare Districts.

Today, as the largest healthcare district in the State of California, the District serves communities in an 800-square-mile area, with a trauma center that covers more than 2,200 square miles of South Riverside and North San Diego Counties. In addition to two hospitals and one skilled nursing facility, the District offers home health care, surgery, ambulatory care, behavioral health and wound health services, as well as providing community health education programs.

Click here to view map of district boundaries.

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