ESCONDIDO — Palomar Health will receive more than $3 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its COVID-19 alternate care site at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, it was announced this week.
After the medical group faced initial reimbursement challenges, it turned to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Bonsall), who said he worked directly with state and federal offices to review and secure reimbursement.
“Palomar was asked by two levels of government to take the lead in our community’s COVID-19 response and made significant investments to do so,” Issa said. “When Palomar was met with bureaucratic obstacles to gain its deserved reimbursement, our office worked with various levels of government to overcome them.”
The total reimbursement from FEMA is $3,098,793.06.
In early 2020, responding to requests from county and state officials to help coordinate a community-based COVID response, Palomar Health began the process for designation as a federal medical station.
In March 2020, San Diego County requested the hospital be reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The following month, Army Corps of Engineers provided a positive assessment, and the California Department of Public Health approved the request.
Palomar Medical Center in Escondido worked with state and federal agencies to establish an alternate care site on two floors of the facility. Alternate care sites were strategically implemented by the state to provide relief for local hospitals and healthcare systems facing potential overcrowding.
On Dec. 31, the Federal Medical Station at Palomar was activated and began treating patients.
“This timely result is a credit to Palomar’s good work, as well as FEMA’s Region 9 Team, which was responsive in solving this problem,” Issa said.
The medical group, which operates multiple medical centers and clinics in north San Diego County in San Marcos, Poway, Escondido, Ramona and Rancho Bernardo, has faced financial hardship over the last year and drew criticism for laying off 317 employees in late April.
In December, registered nurses and caregivers gathered outside Palomar Medical Center Poway to protest what they said were unsafe working conditions during the pandemic, a claim which officials at the healthcare system described as “appalling” and “irresponsible.”