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Kaiser adds Tri-City Medical Center to its options for North County members

Kaiser adds Tri-City Medical Center to its options for North County members

Kaiser Permanente has added Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside as a health plan option for a wide range of services.(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Existing pact with Palomar Health extended through 2024

More than 185,000 Kaiser Permanente members living in North County now have an additional hospital option.

Kaiser and Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside jointly announced an agreement Thursday that adds the facility as a health plan option for a wide range of services from emergencies and inpatient care to specialty procedures and surgeries.

It is a significant development for Tri-City, which has generally only transferred stabilized Kaiser patients to other contracted hospitals, including Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, which has been a plan hospital for more than 15 years.

With its two main medical centers located far to the south in San Diego, Kaiser has long needed to partner with independent hospitals in North County in order to give its members somewhere to go that is not 30 to 40 miles away from home.

The agreement does not signal the end of the relationship between Kaiser and Palomar. The inland North County health system said in a 2017 letter that it would allow its Kaiser agreement to expire on Sept. 30, 2022, unless a “more relevant, long-term, collaborative partnership” was created.

That is apparently what happened. Both sides said a recently-signed pact extends the relationship between Kaiser and Palomar through Dec. 31, 2024.

The contract with Tri-City, a Kaiser official said in an email, runs through Nov. 30, 2023.

That’s the point at which things will change significantly in the world of North County health care. Kaiser broke ground on a 206-bed $400 million hospital on its outpatient campus in San Marcos in December. The new seven-story facility, which will include its own emergency, labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023.

Given the large investment located just a few miles west of Palomar Medical Center Escondido, Kaiser members are likely to wonder whether current relationships with Tri-City and Palomar will have staying power.

In a statement, Kaiser said that the new hospital’s opening will not necessarily trigger pull backs from other non-Kaiser properties.

“While some services may migrate to the newly-opened San Marcos Medical Center in the fall of 2023, ongoing partnerships will be coordinated directly with area organizations based on what’s needed at the time,” the statement said.

At Tri-City, Kaiser indicated that it intends to bring some of its own employees and affiliated physicians in to care for its patients, but they will collaborate with existing personnel.

“Kaiser Permanente physicians will be caring for members in partnership with Tri-City Medical Center staff and physicians,” Kaiser said. “We have credentialed physicians at TCMC and are credentialing more to be able to provide options for care in a variety of specialties.”