It’s difficult to imagine large parts of San Diego County that were once so sparsely populated that communities needed to tax themselves in order to build a hospital. But about 70 years ago, that’s exactly what went down.
In the mid-1940s, California drew boundaries for what later became health care districts. Today, four districts exist in San Diego County: Tri-City, Palomar, Grossmont and Fallbrook.
Think of them like school districts, but for health care. District hospitals are publicly subsidized and function like county hospitals — only the county is divided into subsections.
A portion of residents’ property taxes can go toward building and modernizing hospitals, and the district can sell bonds to shore up construction capital.
Generally, district hospitals are led by board members elected through a public vote. The idea is that districts will be represented by someone chosen from the community, with its best interests in mind.
Board members, who some districts pay about $100 a pop for participating in board meetings, choose a chief operating officer, whose annual salaries can range from $70,000 to around $1 million.