Palomar Health Rehabilitation Institute Brings Opportunity to Expand What Is Possible


Palomar Health will be opening a new comprehensive integrated rehabilitation hospital, the Palomar Health Rehabilitation Institute, at the end of 2020 on the campus of Palomar Medical Center Escondido. It will occupy the southeast corner of the parking lot between the medical center and the medical office building. The hospital is a joint-venture with Kindred Healthcare.

Currently housed in the Palomar Medical  Center Downtown campus, the Acute Rehabilitation Unit (ARU) is jointly run by Palomar Health and Kindred Healthcare, with Palomar providing registered nurses (including several certified rehabilitation registered nurses), licensed vocational nurses, and patient care technicians and Kindred providing administration; physical, speech and occupational therapists; and rehabilitation technicians, who seamlessly work together to provide care to medically-involved patients who need intensive medical and rehabilitative treatment.

On the continuum of care scale, acute rehabilitation is the most intensive with patients receiving at least three hours of rehabilitation a day, at least five days a week divided up in 60-90 minute sessions depending on patient needs. Patients stay in private rooms until their rehabilitation is completed. The Palomar Health ARU maintains a 5 to 1 patient to nurse ratio guaranteeing quality individualized care in speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and wound care. The ARU also offers group, art, music and pet therapies.

The majority of patients are referred to the ARU by their attending hospital physician.  The average length of stay is 12 days. The most common types of patients are those who have lost some type of functionality, whether it’s neurological trauma such as stroke or a spinal cord injury, an amputation or severe burns.

“We try to maximize the potential of the person getting back to what they were,” said ARU Medical Director Kim Davis, “or help them with their new normal” in the case of patients experiencing permanent disabilities.

Acute rehabilitation is highly successful at helping patients maximize their recovery, functionality, and independence.  According to ARU Program Director Susan Ropacki, PhD, the Palomar Health ARU is especially adept at helping patients return to community living. The national benchmark for an ARU is to discharge 78% of patients to their home but Palomar Health has a home discharge rate of 83%, meaning fewer patients need to be transferred to long-term acute care or a skilled nursing facility after treatment.

The multidisciplinary staff hold meetings every morning to coordinate patient care, share updates on progress and suggest ways to help patients improve. Their dedication ignites great results.

“It’s a miracle to see patients who come in here as a total assist (meaning they can’t get out of bed without help) and they go home with just a cane,” said ARU Nurse Supervisor Lea Vitug.

It’s the reason Davis gravitated to rehabilitation when she was in medical school.

“You have to do work arounds, problem-solve and think outside the box,” Davis said.

When the new acute rehabilitation hospital opens, the number of licensed patient beds will soar from the current 25 to 52. Ropacki believes the new building represents an opportunity to provide even greater access to outstanding rehabilitation care for the community.

“Our ARU staff are tremendously talented therapists, clinicians and doctors.  This new rehabilitation hospital represents an opportunity to grow in ways that elevate their skills to a whole new level for the benefit of the patients,” Ropacki said.

When opened the hospital will serve more than an estimated 1,200 patients per year.

Photo caption: The Palomar Health Acute Rehabilitation team brings a multidisciplinary approach to making people whole again. 

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