All Pumped Up: Prebys center to receive first patients


Scripps Health opens the West Coast’s most advanced cardiovascular care center

After years of planning, Scripps Health’s new $456 million Prebys Cardiovascular Institute in La Jolla will receive its first patients March 8, opening as the West Coast’s most advanced center for cardiovascular care.

What Scripps Clinic’s chief of cardiology, Paul Teirstein (who is also director of the new cardiac center), lauded last week as the building’s “arty, boomerang design” seems fitting.

Like a curved, wood stick tossed aloft, the quality care Scripps has provided San Diegans through the decades has come back in the form of $127 million in philanthropic gifts toward the new center. Donations came from more than 2,600 individuals, including $1 million from Scripps physicians, another $1 million from its staff and $45 million from Conrad Prebys, a real estate developer and philanthropist for whom the state-of-the-art facility is named.

Addressing hundreds of donors, physicians, staff and media during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 26, Scripps Health’s President and CEO Chris Van Gorder called Prebys’ donation “impactful” and “historic.”

“We will always be grateful to you,” Van Gorder told Prebys and those in attendance. “It’s the single largest donation Scripps has ever received, and we believe it will help reshape heart care and health care in San Diego for the 21st century.”

The new center includes 108 private patient rooms, 59 intensive care beds and six operating rooms, including two hybrid operating rooms and three cardiac catheterization labs, with space to add three more. (Catheterization is a procedure by which a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in a patient’s arm, upper thigh or neck and threaded to their heart to conduct diagnostic tests and heart treatments.)

On its third through seventh floors are 17 negative pressure (isolation) rooms that prevent cross-contamination between patient areas. The rooms are used to isolate patients with airborne contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox or Ebola.

During his speech, Van Gorder paid homage to La Jolla benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps, who in 1924 established the original Scripps Hospital on Prospect Street. “I can absolutely tell you that Miss Ellen is smiling down on us today,” Van Gorder assured.

The center will continue Scripps’ more than three-decade collaboration with Kaiser Permanente cardiologists. Scripps’ 166 cardiovascular specialists serve about 76,000 heart patients per year, making Scripps the largest heart care provider in the region.

Addressing the audience Feb. 26, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the new center is a testament to San Diegans coming together to achieve great things.

“The research and teaching that is going to go on here is going to save thousands and thousands of lives across this country and indeed across the world, because of the techniques and technology pioneered here,” Faulconer said.

The building’s design was shaped by input from more than 200 doctors, nurses, administrators, architects and staff.

Van Gorder said completion of the Prebys Institute fulfills a vision he had when he joined Scripps Health in 2000 “to see cranes on all the campuses,” heralding expansion of the Scripps Health system.

The new center is a crucial component of a 25-year master plan unveiled in November 2010 that is transforming the Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla campus. The master plan also calls for the replacement of the existing hospital to comply with California earthquake safety mandates.

Other additions include the Scripps Clinic John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion, a $130 million medical building being constructed adjacent to Prebys Institute, set for completion in March 2016.

San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner, a La Jollan who gave birth to all three of her children at Scripps hospitals, said Scripps was one of the first outside parties to pay her a visit when she joined the City Council in 2008, to share plans for its cardiac center and its other La Jolla projects.

“I am proud that Scripps continues to grow, invest and thrive in San Diego,” Lightner said, noting how Scripps’ expansion will create an array of jobs in the region and promote economic growth. “Once completed, this entire area will be a wonder to behold. ... I can’t wait for the rest of the buildings in the master plan to come forward.”

The new facility combines the cardiovascular programs of neighboring Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Green Hospital, located adjacent Torrey Pines Golf Course.

The adjacent John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion will be linked to Prebys Cardiovascular Institute by two enclosed, elevated walkways. The Anderson pavillion will include doctors’ offices, patient exam rooms, four cath labs and 12 recovery rooms.

Cardiologists practicing in the Prebys Center will have offices and see patients in the adjacent pavilion. Surgical facilities in the Prebys Center will be available, if needed, to patients undergoing procedures in the Anderson cath labs.

Heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death for men and women, claiming about 600,000 lives each year and accounting for one in every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In San Diego County, nearly 4,000 people die of heart disease each year.