This story was updated 6/9/2016 at 12:30 p.m.
The Hillcrest building that was once home to the San Diego Hospice will house a temporary fire station beginning later this year.
[one_half][box type=”shadow this-matters”]The San Diego Hospice, once a national leader in palliative care, will temporarily house an unusual new tenant.[/box][/one_half]
An internal Scripps Health memo obtained by inewsource said the city of San Diego had agreed to lease part of the building for 30 months while a nearby station is renovated.
Scripps acquired the hospice in 2013 after the hospice declared bankruptcy. Scripps uses part of the building as administrative offices for its own hospice and home-based care program. The grounds also have memorials left by relatives who still visit the place where their loved ones spent their final days.
The temporary fire station relocation is part of a $6.3 million rebuilding project. The cost includes the new building and a temporary structure, but not the rent the city will pay Scripps. The current station at 3902 Ninth Ave. will be demolished and rebuilt.
An official with the city’s Real Estate Assets Department said the lease is still under negotiation and terms won’t be available for a few more weeks.*
A Scripps spokeswoman said a temporary structure will be set up on the grounds to house fire vehicles, and the crew will live in a currently unused section of the hospice building. A project manager with the city’s Public Works Department said construction is expected to start in late July.*
Todd Hoff, corporate vice president for Scripps Health, said fire department officials approached Scripps because they had no options for locating a temporary station.
“We see this as part of serving the community,” Hoff said in an interview with inewsource. “It’s critical that the fire station is close by, from a service perspective, for this community.”
Lee Swanson, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the lease and relocation was handled by the city’s public works staff. He said a 12-person crew will operate out of the station, with four firefighters living there at any one time.
“They need a kitchen, living space and sleeping space,” he said. “We have to have various telephone and network connections and some kind of an alerting system set up so we can let them know they have to go out on a call without phoning them.”
The memo informing Scripps home-based care staff came from Hoff. In it, he said the move was expected to have “minimal impact” on the facility or the administrative work being done there.
Scripps’ understanding, he wrote, is the crews “will not affect the public’s ability to visit memorials.”
Visitors to the memorials have access seven days a week, Hoff told inewsource. Community members just have to sign in to visit the memorials, which Hoff said are primarily in walking trails in the outer perimeter of the campus, overlooking Mission Valley.
“Ever since we acquired the property we have provided access to the memorials,” Hoff said. “That will not change with this lease.”
The memo also mentioned the long-term plans for the hospice.
“When Scripps originally purchased this property, the intent was to use it for inpatient hospice care. While we continue to look for ways to economically make this space work for clinical use, the health care landscape is changing rapidly and our best approach is to take more time before final decisions are made,” Huff wrote.
The hospice closed in 2013 under the shadow of what the federal government said was a $110 million debt for false Medicare claims. Scripps hired some of the staff and began offering its own hospice care.
Earlier this year, inewsource reported that the final audit found the hospice had overcharged Medicare for $10 million. In interviews with inewsource, experts and former leaders of the hospice said it could have been saved.
*This story has been updated with new information from city of San Diego staff.