In a 2007 survey, three out of four eastern Riverside County residents reported having visited a healthcare provider in the past six months. Unfortunately, one cannot assume that the remaining one in four did not need medical attention or, at the least, could not have benefited from a routine checkup.
The Health Assessment Resource Center — a Palm Desert-based nonprofit founded to provide research data to facilitate decision making regarding health and quality of life — is scheduled to release its second survey-based report in January to help identify shortcomings/ needs in the local healthcare system.
“I don’t want to see the same things on there,” says Gary Jeandron, board vice president and project director of the Coachella Valley Health Collaborative. “We are trying to facilitate change.”
The collaborative has identified the desert area’s strengths as the number and quality of medical facilities, the availability of clinics, a commitment to improving health, and good dissemination of information.
“We see all the [Coachella Valley] hospitals cooperating,” Jeandron says. “They have never walked away from us when we have an idea. They see the need for access to healthcare.” HARC board members include representatives (including two CEOs) of the desert’s three hospitals.
“Transportation is a key problem, especially in the East Valley,” says Jeandron, adding that local hospitals are making more clinics available.
Desert Regional Medical Center, Eisenhower Medical Center, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital continually add the latest technologies and procedures to ensure patients receive the most comprehensive, least invasive, and promising treatments. But perhaps the biggest development in local healthcare in the past year has been their expanded reach.
Desert Regional Medical Center, for example, opened its La Quinta Imaging Center in July and in September opened at the center ICON East, the Institute for Clinical Orthopedics and Neurosciences. The center is equipped with the valley’s first wide-bore MRI, a CT scanner that produces 3-D images in seconds, an MRI breast imaging machine, and digital X-ray equipment.
In February, Eisenhower Medical Center opened the 92,000-square-foot Eisenhower George and Julia Argyros Health Center in La Quinta. The first of three buildings planned on 13.5 acres, the center offers numerous services, including immediate care, imaging, lab tests, radiation oncology, health and wellness programs, mammography, bone-density scanning, and family and internal medicine practices. The second floor (approximately 8,000 square feet) comprises the Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center, scheduled to open next month.
Eisenhower also has three health centers opening soon: in November at the Rancho Mirage Medical Center at Monterey Avenue and Country Club Drive and in December two in Palm Springs — in the Von’s Rimrock shopping center at Highway 111 and Gene Autry Trail and on Sunrise Way at Arenas Road.
John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital opened JFK Orthopedics in La Quinta early last year and expanded it by 10,000 square feet in the fall. The clinic provides services for arthritis, osteoporosis, bone and joint disorders, sports injuries, rheumatoid pain, and related health issues.
In August, the hospital opened a primary-care office in the north end of Indio (at 42nd and Jackson streets). Two of the physicians working in that office are among seven physicians JFK recruited from out of state to fill the needs of a growing community. The doctors specialize in gastroenterology, orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, pulmonary medicine, and primary care.
The hospitals also have expanded services on their own campuses. Last December, Desert Regional opened the El Mirador Imaging Center. New equipment includes an MRI that provides high-resolution images in half the time of a traditional machine, PET/CT scanners, a digital mammography machine, bone-density scanner, and digital X-ray machine. This fall, the hospital takes delivery on a da Vinci robot for gynecological and urological procedures.
Eisenhower’s new $212.5 million Walter and Leonore Annenberg Pavilion adds 248 beds to the 294 beds in the main hospital, which lost patient capacity in the conversion of the second floor to the Center for Geropsychiatry. That center, which opened in July, offers voluntary, inpatient mental health services to adults 65 and older who need support in stabilizing symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and other adjustment or personality disorders. As for new technology, Eisenhower has added a radiation machine that rotates around cancer patients to pinpoint beams to diseased tissue and delivers treatment faster than traditional machines and a CT scanner that covers four times the area of standard scanners and renders 3-D images.
This summer, Eisenhower began offering clerkships for students in their third and fourth years of medical school. The first two students in the program are enrolled at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Last October, JFK added to its main hospital a 22-bed Acute Care for the Elderly Unit and an 11-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
All of this progress addresses the availability of services; but healthcare professionals, government officials, and business leaders also need to make healthcare more affordable.
“What I am excited about is getting into the area of prevention. All of us see a need,” Jeandron says, pointing in particular to nutrition and obesity issues. “If we are going to make any impact on health costs, we have to put an emphasis on prevention.”