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VA scandal, medical marijuana were top health stories

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Kaiser's ongoing Kearny Mesa project is the company's first new hospital in 40 years. Courtesy image

In the first half of the year, Obamacare and the VA hospital scandal dominated national news. In San Diego, health care facility construction continued to be an area of high activity, and there was news of shake-ups at two health groups and new regulations pertaining to medical marijuana.


Construction of the new Kaiser Permanente San Diego Central Hospital in Kearny Mesa kicked off in February. The 565,000-square-foot facility is being built on the 19-acre lot at Ruffin Road and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, where the county of San Diego Registrar of Voters building stood.

The seven-story facility will be Kaiser’s first new hospital in 40 years and will feature 450 patient rooms with “telehealth technology,” as well as image-guided surgical and robotic equipment. The approximately $900 million campus hospital is set to open in early 2017.

In March, construction began on the $175 million John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion, a project of Scripps Health. The new six-story medical office building will include specialty services such as cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, neurology, nephrology and endocrinology.

The 175,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed in 2016.

A “topping out” ceremony was held in June to celebrate the completion of structural steel construction on the new 71,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. Begun in April 2013, the project is expected to be completed next year. Sharp HealthCare is the operator of Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

New executives

The Palomar Health board of directors named Robert Hemker as the new president and CEO of Palomar Health, effective Aug. 15. Hemker has served as the chief financial officer for Palomar Health for the past 13 years, including a stint as interim CEO in 2002. The board made a unanimous decision in June following the resignation of president and CEO Michael Covert. Hemker has more than 30 years in the health care industry and was appointed as chief financial officer of Palomar Health in May 2001.

Robert Hemker was named the new president and CEO of Palomar Health. Courtesy image

Tri-City Medical Center hired Tim Moran to be its new CEO in June. He has more than 35 years of health care experience and replaced former hospital CEO Larry Anderson, who left after about four years in the top spot. The hospital’s board had voted to fire Anderson, citing a number of reasons, including an allegation that he pressured the hospital’s financial officer to misstate financial reserves. Anderson filed a claim with the hospital stating that he terminated his contract before the board vote. The parties are in arbitration.

Medical marijuana

After four years of debate, the San Diego City Council in February supported a resolution to authorize fewer than 30 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city -- a drop from the 140 or so that were operating without permits.

Under a plan offered by Councilmember Lori Zapf, each City Council district will have a maximum of four dispensaries. But zoning laws and other requirements will likely lead to fewer dispensaries in various districts. Medical marijuana proponents say it's possible that as few as 10 dispensaries will meet all the requirements.

The City Council then moved its attention to mobile dispensaries, which remain illegal under the city’s zoning laws. However, the website Weedmaps.com shows that mobile medical marijuana providers far outnumber storefronts in the city.

-- Compiled by Jennifer Chung Klam

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