CIMC announces affiliation with UCI Health

Courtesy Photo Avalon’s only hospital, Catalina Island Medical Center serves the clinical needs of Santa Catalina Island’s 4,000 residents as well as the more than one million visitors who travel to Catalina each year.

Could be a healthcare gamechanger, CEO says

The CEO of the Catalina Island Medical Center this week announced a “clinical affiliation” with the University of California Irvine Medical Center (UCI Health) that could lead to a healthcare breakthrough for the island.

“This could be a game changer for health care on the island,” said Jason Paret, CEO of CIMC, in an interview this week. “Working with UCI Health,” he said, “raises the level and quality of care to the community.”

Chad T. Lefteris, CEO of UCI Health, said the new affiliation opens possibilities for both institutions.

“We believe the successful relationship with CIMC in emergency medicine provides a solid foundation to explore the potential for UCI Health to support CIMC and the Catalina Island Medical Center Foundation in their mission to provide the highest quality health care for residents and visitors,” said Lefteris said in a statement.

“This affiliation opens the door to the possible expansion of primary and specialty care as CIMC grows,” he added.

Paret first made the announcement at the Avalon Council meeting earlier this week, telling the city that the hospital wanted to “grow and expand” its services for islanders and later spoke to the Catalina Islander in an interview.

“Working with UCI Health raises the level and quality of care available to our community,” said Paret, adding that the CIMC/UCIH collaboration “opens the door to expanding existing clinical services and increasing our community’s access to specialty care.”

That said, Paret explained that the arrangement is merely a clinic affiliation, not a partnership of any kind. There will not be any co-mingling of funds, he said, yet under the agreement, the island will now have preferred access to the medical assets of UCI, including its specialists and medical personnel.

“We need visiting physicians, and we need specialists coming to the island on a monthly basis,” said Paret. “Now we have them.”

And as an example, said Paret, having a clinical affiliation with UC Irvine will make it a lot easier to provide high-quality healthcare to the island. “You know, for us to have visiting physicians come once a month, like an endocrinologist, or pain management, or those types, like a nephrologist, now we can simply make a request to UC Irvine.”

Paret said the UCIH affiliation only adds to the long history of the island’s chief medical institution.

Avalon’s only hospital, Catalina Island Medical Center serves the clinical needs of Santa Catalina Island’s 4,000 residents as well as the more than one million visitors who travel to Catalina each year. Catalina Island Medical Group serves Catalina Island’s medical needs with full-time physicians and nurse practitioners and is supported by the ancillary hospital resources including diagnostic imaging, therapy services, nutritional counseling, and clinical laboratory services, said Paret in a statement.

The Catalina Island Medical Center’s emergency department evaluates and treats 2,600 cases a year, a 33% increase since the UCI Health collaboration began in 2016. Patients have consistently ranked CIMC’s emergency services as one of the best in the nation, the statement said. Catalina Island Medical Center and its predecessor, Avalon Municipal Hospital, have provided medical care at 100 Falls Canyon Road, Avalon, since 1960.

The original building featured six beds and could serve eight people at a time. Subsequent expansions added emergency and operating rooms, and laboratory, x-ray, and observation rooms, he said.

In 1982, a new wing with patient rooms, a physical therapy room, and administrative offices was built. In the mid-2000s, the hospital completely renovated the emergency and operating rooms and added new clinic exam rooms and space for physicians. It purchased a new CT scanner and began to offer telemedicine services to connect island patients to medical specialists on the mainland.

While there will be no co-mingling of funds, Parent said the new affiliation potentially creates a seamless pipeline to the sophisticated medical network of UCIH. Moreover, looking forward to the new hospital, he said it is possible that the affiliation could also lead to CIMC, or whatever the co-brand will ultimately be called, to utilize the enormous buying power of UCI Health to purchase new equipment.

Islanders have already approved a funding mechanism to facilitate CIMC’s future plans, which includes the development of a new hospital facility that will meet the State of California’s mandate that all hospitals meet existing seismic safety standards by 2030.

Moreover, Paret said the timing is perfect to make the clinical affiliation. Had the institution gone out and tried to negotiate a fair agreement five years ago, “we would have had to give up all governing power and operations to whatever organization.”

“Now,” said Paret, with how well we [CIMC] performed during the pandemic, the ballot measure passing, and the new hospital coming online, the institution has developed much value. Because of all of the community support, he said, the island’s medication center now has the power to negotiate an affiliation that allows for “local governance and local control.”

“We will create a new co-brand,” said Paret, “whether we change our name a bit or whether we say Catalina Island Medical Center, the new entity will be a UCI health affiliate,” the CIMC CEO said.

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system in Orange County. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif.

The UCI 459-bed acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 22 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health, and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County, and southeast Los Angeles County.

Catalina Island Medical Center is the result of more than a century of evolving medical care on Santa Catalina Island. Although it is one of the smallest hospitals in the state, due to its unique island location, it historically has provided many of the health services typically found only at larger facilities. It serves its patients through a truly integrated healthcare delivery system consisting of physician offices, an acute care hospital, and skilled nursing services, along with its extensive outpatient programs.

Serving Catalina Island’s 4,500 residents and the more than one million visitors who travel to Catalina each year, CIMC is a federally recognized rural Critical Access Hospital. In its current location since 1960, CIMC maintains high-quality emergency services, in-patient care, and a primary care clinic.

CIMC’s Emergency Department has recently been named a 2022 Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award® winner for excellence in patient care. Evaluating and treating nearly 2,500 cases a year, the emergency room is staffed 24/7/365 with UC Irvine Emergency Medicine Physicians and supported by the medical center’s laboratory and diagnostic imaging departments to meet the acute medical needs of Catalina Island’s residents and visitors. With the use of patient satisfaction surveys, patients consistently rank CIMC’s emergency services as one of the best in the nation.