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Q&A: Scripps CEO on Strategic Appeal of a Regional Medical Center

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 6, 2013

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health CEO, explains why his organization would want to shoulder the challenges of buying an acute care hospital in a small farming community. The potential deal is appealing he says, because from a "population health basis, we need to grow."

San Diego-based Scripps Health and El Centro (CA) Regional Medical Center announced this week that they are in acquisition talks.


Chris Van Gorder


Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO of Scripps Health

It's pretty clear why ECRMC would want to join Scripps. Tucked into the southeastern corner of the state, the 161-bed city-owned acute care hospital is located in Imperial Valley in the middle of the desert, 100 miles east of San Diego. It serves a farming community of about 43,000 souls just north of the Mexican border with a challenging patient mix that includes a substantial number of undocumented workers and uninsured U.S. citizens, and an unemployment rate close to 25%, one of the worst in the nation.

ECRMC earned an "F" in its Fall 2013 hospital safety score from the Leapfrog Group, and scored at or near the bottom of the pack on a number of measures including surgical site infections, ICU physician staffing, and falls and trauma injuries.

David Green, CEO at ECRMC, said the medical center had explored affiliations with more than 30 organizations before deciding to negotiate exclusively with Scripps. "Their mission and values align with the mission and values of El Centro Regional Medical Center, and we feel that together the city, the hospital, and most importantly, patients will greatly benefit from this affiliation," Green said in prepared remarks.

All of this makes perfect sense from ECRMC's perspective. What's not so clear is why blue chip Scripps Health would want to shoulder the challenges and liabilities presented by ECRMC. Scripps Health CEO and President Chris Van Gorder addressed those questions in an interview this week.

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