By Kathy Day
If you get the sense there’s competition between UCSD Medical Center and Scripps Health, you’re right, although the CEOs won’t actually say it in as many words.
Both of San Diego’s major medical providers are in the midst of major expansions and have CEOs who contend their facilities are the best around.
Chris Van Gorder says Scripps is aiming to continue the legacy of Ellen Browning Scripps who donated money 86 years ago for Scripps Memorial Hospital and the Scripps Metabolic Clinic as a “compassionate place of caring” for the ill and injured and as a place to “to research new and promising treatments.”
His counterpart at UCSD, Tom Jackiewicz, says the goal at UCSD is to “hold ourselves out as the best on the planet.”
One can just picture them walking through their neighboring sites off Genesee Avenue — each wondering what cutting-edge piece of equipment or patient-focused feature the other is including. There, adjacent to UCSD’s Thornton Hospital, work is set to start in 2012 on the UCSD Jacobs Medical Center with its three hospitals. Just to the north, at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla work is expected to start in June on a project that calls for three new hospital towers, two medical office buildings and an outpatient center work.
On top of building massive new main hospitals, both groups are moving forward with multi-million-dollar proton therapy centers for cancer treatment and research use, and both have new cardiovascular centers in the works.
Each man waves the banner of being award-winning medical complexes with a broad expanse of specialties, and each renders an opinion on his center’s role in the healthcare landscape.
Jackiewicz put it this way: “We provide really good healthcare and are focused on how we can get better. … We want to be as good as we can be and raise our game. Scripps wants to be as good as us. …. If we both succeed, it’s a win-win for the community.”
Van Gorder’s take is of Scripps as a “healthcare community” that aims to deliver high quality care and “meet unmet needs.”
He added: “It’s not just a hospital, it’s a mindset.”
Building on philanthropy
Because Scripps depends so much on philanthropy for support, it must be a “high-quality provider” and must run as a good business, he added, noting that UCSD can lean on government support because it is a state institution.
Jackiewicz also sees costs and efficiencies as a critical factor in the medical center’s operations and notes that investments like those made by Irwin and Joan Jacobs are critical to its future success.
Van Gorder said that as Scripps officials considered the future — which includes a need to meet state seismic requirements that make it more practical to rebuild than retrofit — “we’ve taken a long, 25-year view of what we will build and need, in terms of technology and making it more green.”
Coupled with limited land and California Coastal Commission regulations that limit the ability to raise the height Scripps Green Hospital on Torrey Pines Road, it “made sense to be more visionary about the replacement,” he added.
Meeting San Diegans’ needs
Scripps’ master plan for its $2 billion, 43-acre regional medical center will emphasize greater collaboration between Memorial and Green hospitals. Three new office hospital towers to replace the existing Memorial facility, two medical office buildings, research and graduate education facilities, an outpatient center and more parking are planned. Meanwhile, Green will shift to more outpatient services.
A press release describes the project: “Patients will have all of their healthcare needs met in one location, from wellness, prevention and advanced diagnostics … to the latest medical and surgical treatments … “
At UCSD, seemingly a stone’s throw away, construction on the 10-story, 457,000-square-foot addition is expected to begin in 2012. It includes a new cancer hospital, a hospital for women and infants, and one for advanced surgery, complementing the existing Thornton Hospital.
Jackiewicz says by being a “center for innovation” the university medical center should also be able to “attract patients from beyond San Diego … with programs only we can really bring.”
Collaborate or not?
While he said he has does not confer with Van Gorder, he notes there are opportunities to explore coordinated care.
“We don’t always need to duplicate,” Jackiewicz said. Today UCSD is in a partnership with Sharp Healthcare for bone marrow transplants and Scripps, the largest provider of cardiac services in the state, recently expanded its cardiovascular services agreement with Kaiser for 30 years.
He points to what he calls a “pyramid of healthcare” that includes academic medical centers like Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Duke that bring research and clinical efforts together at the highest levels, adding that’s where UCSD fits in.
Scripps fits into the “community hospital” slot, he said, adding, “We don’t look at Scripps as competition.”
Van Gorder disputes the “academic” exclusivity Jackiewicz claims for UCSD, noting that Scripps too provides graduate post-graduate training programs and internships even though it is not a medical school.
“We were here before anyone else … we’re not going away,” he said.
While there’s disagreement about how to serve San Diego’s health needs — and little conversation between the two that has roots in the decision to locate UCSD’s medical center near Scripps Memorial — they concur that nobody should have to leave San Diego to get the care they need. And they agree that as the local population grows older, the community’s medical needs are changing and influencing the direction healthcare institutions are taking.
“San Diego is blessed to have very good healthcare,” Van Gorder said. “I don’t think the people know how good they have it.”
Jackiewicz echoed his Scripps counterpart: “San Diego is very blessed to have good providers.”