80-Bed Joint Venture : Regents OK UCSD Psychiatric Hospital

Times Staff Writer

UC San Diego’s proposal for a new, 80-bed psychiatric hospital that would feature private management and publicly provided care was tentatively approved Thursday by the University of California Board of Regents.

Two key parts of the public-private effort won the endorsement of the Regents’ committees on finance and educational policy, despite some misgivings about the financial health of the school’s private partner, Charter Medical-California.

The full board is scheduled to consider the proposal today.

UCSD wants the new hospital to augment what Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson described as a “very distinguished record” in research and laboratory work in psychiatry. The university’s medical students cannot receive adequate training in modern psychiatry without treating the kind of acutely ill patients who more and more are troubling American society, he said.


UCSD now has only 17 inpatient hospital beds for psychiatric patients at the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, the fewest of any major academic psychiatry department in the country. The university’s medical students and doctors also treat mentally ill veterans, most of whom are elderly males.

“It has become increasingly evident that the link between research and the clinical practice of medicine needs to be strengthened,” Atkinson said. The hospital would have other benefits as well, Atkinson said. It would help alleviate a shortage of beds for acutely ill psychiatric patients in San Diego County and would attract more outside funding to the university.

“We believe that, over time, (the hospital) will be very productive for the university in terms of the level of federal funding we will be able to attract,” he said.

The proposal calls for Charter Medical-California to build the hospital on land leased from the university east of Interstate 5, near the Satellite Medical Facility and the Shiley Eye Center. The complex would include a free-standing, three-story psychiatric hospital as well as a neuropsychiatric clinic and research building.

The hospital would have 80 beds for the diagnosis and treatment of adult, adolescent, child and geriatric patients. The clinic and research building would contain offices, conference rooms, group therapy areas, space for outpatient treatment and teaching activities, and laboratory space.

Charter Medical would provide the administration for the hospital, including the hospital administrator and the nursing and technical staff. The university would provide the medical staff, including the chief psychiatrist, medical director, and program directors, who would be UCSD faculty.

Charter Medical would reimburse UCSD for the professional services. A basic annual fee would range from $471,000 to $1,055,000, depending upon occupancy rates. The company would also pay for the salaries and benefits of the hospital’s residents and fellows, and would contribute $50,000 to $150,000 a year to psychiatric research.

The hospital would be governed by six trustees--three representatives of Charter Medical and three UCSD representatives appointed by the chancellor.


The two committees approved the concept of the private company’s building the hospital and the research center. The finance committee also approved a loan of $4.7 million in university funds to build the research center. Charter Medical is to pay for $11-million construction and furnishing of the hospital.

Regent Frank W. Clark Jr., a Los Angeles lawyer, questioned whether a long-term lease arrangement with Charter Medical would be wise, given what he believes to be the uncertain financial status of the company. But Clark did not elaborate on his concerns in public, and the lease was discussed in closed session later Thursday afternoon.

UCSD officials declined to explain what they knew of Clark’s concerns or the university’s response.

Charter Medical is a subsidiary of Charter Medical Corp. of Macon, Ga., one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains. Charter operates, or has under construction, 77 psychiatric centers with 6,800 beds, according to UCSD spokeswoman Leslie Franz.


Among Charter’s operations is a recently opened psychiatric and substance-abuse hospital in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area of San Diego.

The entire issue is scheduled to be heard by the board in secret today, then ratified during the board’s public session.