San Diego Hospice
Scripps purchased San Diego Hospice's former facility in Hillcrest for $16.55 million.
Scripps purchased San Diego Hospice’s former facility in Hillcrest for $16.55 million on Tuesday.

By Kelly Paice | inewsource

The courtroom was packed to watch the auction unfold as Scripps Health went head-to-head with Sharp HealthCare to purchase San Diego Hospice’s Hillcrest property. After 50 bids back and forth, Scripps beat out Sharp by $50,000, winning the hospice’s most valuable asset. Scripps bought the eight-acre property for a final price of $16.55 million. Sharp will act as a back-up bidder.

Attorneys for San Diego Hospice and its unsecured creditors — those who are owed money but have no collateral — said Tuesday they were both happy with the final sale reaching almost $6 million more than Scripps’ initial bid.

The property is assessed at more than $18 million and includes a 24-bed inpatient facility, which was built from an $18 million donation from the late Joan Kroc. The new owner, Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder, said Tuesday, “When San Diego Hospice approached us originally, I actually went up the facility and took a walk around the memorial walk and realized this is something that needed to be sustained for San Diego.”

The state Attorney General needs to approve the sale before it becomes official.

The hospice is still awaiting results from a Medicare audit that began two years ago. The audit was looking into the eligibility of patients in San Diego Hospice’s care. The government may still file a claim on Medicare’s behalf against the hospice for as much as $50 million.

San Diego Hospice filed for bankruptcy in early February and no longer has any patients in its care.

Joanne Faryon is a freelance reporter and former inewsource and KPBS reporter.