North County

A Superior Court judge Monday ordered the county to release records of a medical audit committee’s recommendation that the Board of Supervisors designate Escondido’s Palomar Memorial Hospital as a North County trauma center instead of Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.

A two-week stay of the order was granted, however, to give the county time to appeal the decision to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Unless the appellate court reverses the decision or grants a further stay, the documents must be turned over to attorneys for Tri-City by July 17.

Riverside County Judge J. David Hennigan, assigned to hear the case in a San Diego County courtroom, also set a July 29 hearing date for Tri-City’s lawsuit that seeks to force trauma center designation from the county.


A decision by the supervisors on Dec. 4 to follow the audit committee recommendation, the third time in a year that Tri-City had failed to obtain trauma center status, prompted the suit by the hospital.

The board, which came under criticism for failing to include a North County facility in the five-hospital system (plus one other pediatric center), designated Palomar Hospital after an outside team of trauma experts rated it slightly better than Tri-City in a runoff.

Included among the audit committee records sought by Tri-City are a tape recording of the panel’s deliberations, randomly selected charts of trauma patients from both hospitals and the evaluations of each committee member.

Hennigan also ruled that these records are to be used in connection with this case only, and attorneys are not to disclose their contents. In addition, any of the records submitted to the court for use in Tri-City’s lawsuit will be sealed.


But the judge rejected a Tri-City request that he immediately designate the hospital as a trauma center, saying he lacked the authority to do that.