OCEANSIDE — A special meeting of the Tri-City Healthcare District board of directors on June 27 had one item on the agenda, to consider a Joint Powers Agreement with the Fallbrook Healthcare District.
At the meeting both healthcare district boards unanimously approved the agreement and shook hands in mutual congratulations as soon as the meeting was adjourned.
“It’s been a long time coming,” RoseMarie Reno, Tri-City Healthcare District board member, said. “Thank God it’s happening today.”
“It’s a wonderful asset that will assist all of us,” James Dagostino, Tri-City Healthcare District board member, said. “We think alike.”
Larry Anderson, CEO of Tri-City Healthcare District, said the two healthcare districts have been considering the agreement for 15 years.
Vi Dupre, administrator of Fallbrook Healthcare District, said the economic time was right to go forward with the agreement.
“We had a group diverting patients away from Fallbrook Hospital to Palomar Medical Center,” she said. “We want local patients to go to Fallbrook Hospital whenever possible. Fallbrook Hospital did not have some of the services. Tri-City Medial Center seemed like a reasonable and appropriate partner.”
Convenience of patients to get to the nearest hospital was an important factor. Palomar Medical Center is an estimated 26 miles from Fallbrook Hospital, while Tri-City Medial Center is only 17 miles away.
Anderson said the agreement would increase the number of patients at both Fallbrook Hospital and Tri-City Medial Center.
Doctors at Fallbrook Hospital will refer patients who need specialize tertiary care to Tri-City Medical Center. This will allow Fallbrook doctors to follow up and deliver seamless patient care to patients who go to nearby Tri-City Medical Center for services that are not offered at Fallbrook Hospital.
“It’s the closest large hospital that can provide full services for us,” Lynette Shumway, Fallbrook Healthcare District board member, said.
Tertiary care provided at Tri-City includes acute rehabilitation care, orthopedic and neurosurgical services, specialized spine surgery, cardiovascular services, behavioral health services, neonatal intensive care services and hyperbaric medicine.
“The goal is to give uniform care to people in our community,” Steve Abbott, Fallbrook Healthcare District board president, said.
Tri-City doctors will refer patients who live between the two hospitals and who are not in need of tertiary care to Fallbrook Hospital where patients can receive comparable medical care at a lower cost than at Tri-City. In this way each hospital gets additional referrals in its areas of service.
Fallbrook Healthcare District serves Fallbrook, Bonsall, Rainbow and DeLuz and operates the Fallbrook Hospital that has 47 acute care and 93 long-term beds.
Tri-City Healthcare District serves Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista and operates the Tri-City Medical Center that has 397 beds. Tri-City is a full-service acute care medical center and has the only level III neonatal intensive care unit in North County.
The JPA also includes hospital collaboration on programs and services. Dupre said the exact programs and services that will be collaborated on still need to be ironed out, but both hospitals will jointly advertise their new agreement and let patients know about additional services that are available.
“It’s an exciting time,” Dupre said. “It’s a very good thing for the city of Fallbrook.”
Shared programs will likely include each hospital’s development of a managed care network, and recruitment of primary care practitioners, and a joint area medical needs assessment.
Anderson said both hospitals will continue to operate as separate entities and patients who live closer to Tri-City Medical Center will continue to be seen by doctors there for all their medical needs.
“The agreement increases healthcare services and increases the level of services,” Anderson said.