UCSD to build $664 million hospital on La Jolla campus

Thanks to a $75 million donation from philanthropists Joan and Irwin Jacobs, UC San Diego Health System will have a new $664 million, 10-story, 245-bed facility housing three hospitals for cancer treatment, women and infants and advanced surgery by 2016.

“UC San Diego’s health center, as a function of this donation, is destined to become one of the premiere academic medical centers in the country,” said UCSD chancellor Marye Anne Fox at a ceremony today.

The Jacobs’ gift will allow the university to build a new state-of-the-art medical center on East Campus next door to Thornton Hospital at 9300 Campus Point Drive. That new facility, said Fox, will be a dynamic home for pioneering research as well as an educational space for “the next generation of innovators and leaders.” Most importantly, she added, the Jacobs Medical Center “will improve and save lives.”

“They are planning a very flexible building to bring the latest technology, some of which will be wireless,” said Jacobs, noting new wireless, mobile medical technology automatically monitoring and recording blood, heart and other vital levels doesn’t have to be in a given place at a given time. He said the new wireless technology will “play a major role in our future.”

The Jacobs Medical Center will become a campus hub, bringing researchers “very close together” and creating a synergy among them. “We’re going to see a lot of breakthroughs with the medical and engineering research going on and the new facilities that are becoming available: “It’s a fascinating period, " Jacobs said.

Mayor Jerry Sanders said the importance of the Jacobs’ donation cannot be overestimated. “Besides what they’ve done for UCSD, the list of institutions which have benefited from their enormous generosity goes on and on,” he said.

But competing medical organizations said UCSD’s medical expansion could unbalance healthcare provision regionwide, expressing major concerns over the possible reduction of services at UCSD’s Hillcrest facility.

At an impromptu noontime press conference at Scripps Hospital’s corporate offices across the street from UCSD’s La Jolla medical center, four doctors and Chief Executive Officer Chris Van Gorder said UCSD, as a state-owned entity, receives unfair decision-making benefits and monetary support, including costs reimbursed for Medi-Cal patients.

Van Gorder said Scripps hospitals in the South County, where many patients do not have health insurance or are only covered by Medi-Cal, are perennially losing money. Therefore, profits from their hospitals in North County, where most patients have private health insurance, are relied on for South County operational costs.

Van Gorder said the imbalance and extra patients that will flow into Scripps in South County after UCSD reduces services at its Hillcrest hospital would greatly hinder the fiscal sustainability of the entire medical industry in San Diego County.

“More power to them from a business perspective, but you know what? Hospitals and healthcare is more than a business. It’s not about making profits, it’s about serving a community. They’re leaving a portion of our community,” he said. “They’re talking about closing services in an underserved area, and moving them to an over-served area.”

Staff writer Jonathon Horn contributed to this report.