Press Release

San Diego Senior Emergency Care Initiative Launches with All Major Health Systems in Region Committing to Pursue Senior-Friendly Emergency Department Accreditation

5 min
December 09, 2019

West Health and County of San Diego contribute $700,000 to support accreditation of emergency departments as senior-friendly throughout the county

SAN DIEGO – December 9, 2019 – Seniors throughout San Diego can expect more senior-friendly care in local emergency departments with today’s announcement of a collaboration between regional healthcare systems, West Health and County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob to have a majority of the region’s emergency departments accredited as senior-friendly by 2021.

West Health and San Diego County Launch Region-wide Senior-Friendly ER Initiative
Back, (L-R): Dr. Robert Smith, VA San Diego Healthcare System; Dan Gross, Sharp Healthcare; Dimitrios Alexiou, Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties; Kimberly Gallo, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency; Robin Gomez, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center; Steve Dietlin, Tri-City Medical Center; Gemma Rama-Banaag, Paradise Valley Hospital.
Front (L-R): Patty Maysent, UC San Diego Health; Mary West, West Health; Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, County of San Diego; Gary West, West Health; Shelley Lyford, West Health; Dr. Valerie Norton, Scripps Health; Sheila Brown, Palomar Health and Dr. Adam Schwartz, Kaiser Permanente.

Healthcare leaders representing Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente San Diego, Palomar Health, Paradise Valley Hospital, Scripps Health, Sharp HealthCare, Tri-City Medical Center, UC San Diego Health and VA San Diego Healthcare System signed a pledge at UC San Diego Health today to join the San Diego Senior Emergency Care Initiative, a first-of-its-kind public-private commitment by local health systems—funded with $700,000 in grants and support from the County of San Diego and nonprofit West Health—to be the first in the nation to offer accredited senior-friendly emergency care for older adults across the county.

“San Diego is seeing a huge surge in its senior population. Many struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and are vulnerable to mishaps and medical emergencies,” said County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “Supporting our region’s hospitals as they pursue senior-friendly care in their emergency departments is an important part of The Aging Roadmap, the county’s regional vision and framework for supporting healthy aging.”

The goal of the San Diego Senior Emergency Care Initiative is to have the majority of emergency departments in San Diego County achieve Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation, as offered by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), by the end of 2020. Accreditation encompasses a wide spectrum of best practices, including enhanced staffing and education, geriatric-focused policies and protocols, quality improvement initiatives and senior-friendly physical enhancements. Achieving accreditation recognizes emergency departments that have made a commitment toward the goal of providing quality care for older adults.

In 2017, adults over the age of 60 made 297,000 visits to emergency departments in San Diego County, accounting for almost 29% of all ED visits, with 1 in 3 of those older adults getting admitted to the hospital, according to state data. The San Diego Senior Emergency Care Initiative would make San Diego the first region in the nation to offer accredited Geriatric Emergency Departments (GEDs) across its various healthcare systems, a cornerstone of philanthropists Gary and Mary West’s $40 million commitment to expanding the use of senior-appropriate care in emergency departments around the country.

“Emergency departments are the front-porch of our healthcare system, and in our county 1 in 3 patient visits are from seniors, who frequently have multiple health and social challenges and unique needs,” said Shelley Lyford, West Health’s president and CEO. “We have to advance new models of senior-friendly care like geriatric emergency departments that emphasize the holistic and cost-effective care older adults need. We are thrilled to work with our County and healthcare leaders to make San Diego the first county to offer senior-friendly emergency care across the region, leading the nation in our efforts to improve care and lower costs for seniors everywhere.”

There are now more than 100 GEDs around the United States boasting ACEP accreditation, which was developed with financial support and foundational work from the West Health Institute and The John A. Hartford Foundation to achieve the goal of providing quality care for older adult patients.

“ACEP is tremendously excited and grateful for the leadership that San Diego County, West Health and these healthcare systems are demonstrating to evolve emergency care for seniors,” said Dr. Kevin Biese, chairman of the GED Accreditation Board of ACEP. “The number of Accredited Geriatric EDs is growing rapidly thanks to the leadership of innovative organizations like West Health and The John A. Hartford Foundation, and this public-private collaboration is a stellar example for the nation to follow to demonstrate how an entire region can work together to create higher-value senior emergency care. We look forward to learning from this effort as other regions of the country seek to follow your example.”

Seniors are among the fastest-growing segments of California’s population. By 2030, 1 in 5 Californians – about 8.6 million – will be 65 or older. There are now more than 413,000 seniors in San Diego County, making up about 13% of the population now, with that number expected to double by 2030. With Governor Newsom’s leadership in issuing an Executive Order calling for the creation of a Master Plan for Aging in the State of California by October 2020, San Diego County is well-poised to lead the state in advancing senior-friendly models of care and initiatives that improve health outcomes, better coordinate care and reduce costs for the region’s growing number of seniors.

“San Diego’s healthcare systems will truly lead both the state and the nation in our efforts to offer the best care for our seniors anywhere,” said Dimitrios Alexiou, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “Seniors and their families throughout Southern California will know how focused and dedicated our region’s hospitals are on providing the best care they can.”

San Diego has already taken a leadership position in providing accredited geriatric emergency care. Earlier this year, West Health and UC San Diego Health opened the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit at UC San Diego Health, the first facility to achieve the top-level GED accreditation West of the Mississippi. In July, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center became San Diego’s second accredited geriatric emergency department. With this new initiative, all the major health systems throughout the San Diego County region are committing to pursuing accreditation.

Please contact individual health systems for comment on which specific facilities will pursue accreditation.

About West Health
Solely funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, West Health is a family of nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations including the Gary and Mary West Foundation and Gary and Mary West Health Institute in San Diego, and the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C. West Health is dedicated to lowering healthcare costs to enable seniors to successfully age in place with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence. Learn more at and follow @WestHealth.

About County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob
Supervisor Dianne Jacob is chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. She has represented District 2, the largest of San Diego County’s five supervisorial districts, since 1993. It covers most of the eastern two-thirds of the county and includes El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee, Poway, Spring Valley, and many rural communities.

Tim Ingersoll
Director of Communications
West Health

Steve Schmidt
Communications Advisor
Office of County Supervisor Dianne Jacob

La Jolla hospitals pledge senior friendliness   La Jolla Light
Scripps Health Joins Other Hospitals in Region to Participate in New Senior Emergency Care Initiative    Physicians News Network
San Diego’s New Initiative Ensures Emergency Rooms Are Senior-Friendly    Patch
San Diego Hospitals, County Pledge To Improve Emergency Care For Older Patients    KPBS
Hospitals countywide commit to improving emergency care for seniors    San Diego Union Tribune (PDF also attached)
San Diego wants to make hospitals more senior-friendly    KFMB-TV