Our Story - A History of Exceptional Community Care

Palomar Health began with two community health care providers, a nurse and a dietician, who shared concerns about the health care needs of our community.  From that grassroots, community-led effort, Palomar Health has grown to be the largest public health-care district in California with an 800-square-mile service area- one of the seven largest in the United States - and home to North County’s only designated trauma center covering 2,200 square miles.

In 1933, the first hospital in Escondido opened under the name Escondido Community Hospital.  In 1945 a citizens’ group formed 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 formed, which is known today as Palomar Health. In February 1950, Palomar Memorial Hospital opened with a capacity of 37 beds.  In 1985, it achieved full designation as a trauma center and acquired a convalescent center later renamed Palomar Continuing Care Center.    

In June 1977, Pomerado Hospital opened as the District’s second hospital, which today is a 107-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 Palomar Medical Center entered into a management agreement with Rady Children’s Hospital for pediatric services. 

After more than 200 town hall meetings with community members to discuss ideas for the future of health care in Inland North County San Diego, in November 2004, with nearly 70 percent support of the health care district voters, Proposition BB passed, a bond measure that authorized financing for repairs of aging facilities and construction of a new facility. 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 with 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. The facility has 86 inpatient beds and also provides 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, Palomar Health made the decision to close the Palomar Health Downtown Campus and consolidate services at Palomar Medical Center and Pomerado Hospital.  

Understanding Health Care Districts

Health care districts are public entities that provide community-based health care 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 Health care Districts is governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees who are directly accountable to the communities they serve.

Today, Palomar Health is the largest health care district serving communities in an 850-square-mile area and a trauma center that covers more than 2,200 square miles of South Riverside and North San Diego Counties. In addition to three hospitals, Palomar Health offers home health care, surgery, skilled nursing, ambulatory care, behavioral health services, wound health, and community health education programs.

Click here to view map of district boundaries.