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Rady Children’s Hospital Combines Urgent Care, Psychiatry in North County

Consolidation is the name of the game at Rady Children’s Hospital, as San Diego’s sole pediatrics-only health provider consolidates North County operations.

Doctors, nurses and patients have already started settling into a new south Escondido facility this month.

Meanwhile, a formal grand opening is scheduled for May 5.

Although the move doesn’t save on operating costs, it is an opportunity to relieve the crowds at the emergency room at Rady Children’s 248-bed Kearny Mesa campus, said officials for the nonprofit.

The consolidation brings more primary and specialty care business to Escondido, including physical therapy for young athletes and advanced audiology testing for newborns. And it combines outpatient psychiatry services formerly in Rancho Bernardo with an urgent care service formerly offered in downtown Escondido.

To house both services along with new services, the hospital is leasing 7,500 square feet of a newly built 50,000-square-foot North County Medical Center on West Citracado Parkway.

The building is owned by North County MOB Ltd. and will house some of Rady Children’s affiliates, as well as adult oncology and hematology medical offices.

While it’s too soon to weigh the impact on the level of urgent care, the waiting list for psychiatry services, ranging from attention deficit disorder to depression, has dropped to three people from an average of 10.

“You can’t offer good customer service when it’s a three-month waiting list and that doesn’t help when you’re talking to health plans either, trying to get on their lists,” said Dr. Katherine Konzen, medical director.

Kathleen Korn, with Rady’s marketing and business development department, estimates that the hospital’s affiliates along with the 7,500 square feet of rented Rady space consume 40 percent to 50 percent of the new medical center.

Although the center is not exclusively aimed at child and teen patients, unmistakable purple accents inside and out, as well as elevator doors akin to those that resemble fun-house mirrors, make it kid-friendly.


By The Numbers

Tim Jacoby, senior managing director of facilities, said the hospital spent $630,000, or $83 per square foot, on tenant improvements. He said the lease rate for the space is “slightly more” than what the hospital was spending on a 2,500-square-foot space in Rancho Bernardo and a 4,200-square-foot space in downtown Escondido.

He declined to give the rates the hospital is paying for the space.

“It wasn’t so much about saving individual rents,” Jacoby said. “It was more about being able to consolidate individual services into one site where they could grow, too.”

With 7,500 square feet at the new location and a combined 6,700 square feet between the previous two sites, the hospital is gaining only 800 square feet by shutting down two of its previous locations. But Jacoby said the downtown Escondido site previously used for urgent care services was underutilized.

Springing for a newer, larger site does not pose the same problem it would have just a few years ago.

The hospital netted $14.3 million in operating income for 2006, according to a recent published report. It was the third year in a row the hospital ended in the black following layoffs and deep budget cuts years earlier, the local media report said. Figures from hospital officials were not available by press time last week.


An Urgent Need

In 2006, the hospital’s emergency room in Kearny Mesa treated 65,000 patients , many who were not critical enough to warrant emergency room care, said Konzen, who oversees the urgent care program in Escondido. The new facility can treat 25,000 patients a year, she said.

“It won’t relieve all the problem, but it’ll help,” Konzen said.

In addition to Escondido, Rady Children’s operates an urgent care center in the “midcity” area on University Avenue in San Diego and, until October 2006, had one in East County. Last year, the downtown Escondido, midcity and East County centers treated a total of 23,000 patients.

The East County center, which was shut down after its lease expired, is expected to return to the area.

Meanwhile, the hospital is seeking sites for two additional urgent care locations elsewhere in the county, Konzen said.

She said the hospital will eventually have five urgent care centers in the county.


Editor’s note: The original version of this article erred when naming the owners of the new North County Medical Center in Escondido. It is owned by North County MOB, Ltd. This story has been corrected.

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