About the District

– A public agency with a history of caring

Health care districts originated in the mid-1940s as a response to a shortage of acute care hospitals in California, as well as minimal access to health care services in rural parts of the state.


State legislators responded by enacting what is now known as the Local Health Care District Law. This law authorized communities to form special districts in order to meet local health care needs by building and operating hospitals and other health care facilities. With voter approval, communities were authorized to impose property tax assessments to help subsidize community hospitals and health care services.

Created in 1948, the Desert Healthcare District's original mission was to provide hospital services to residents of Desert Hot Springs, Thousand Palms, Palms Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert (west of Cook Street). The District's service area encompasses 457 square miles and extends into Mountain Center.

Since the District's inception, it has been directed by a board of five members elected by residents of the communities served. In the early days, the District board was responsible for building Desert Hospital, now known as Desert Regional Medical Center. Once the hospital opened, board members assumed oversight responsibility for its operations.

Little changed until 1986 when the hospital was leased by Desert Hospital Corporation. For the next decade, District revenues supported hospital operations. Then, changes in the health care environment created the opportunity for the hospital to become part of a nationwide health care company. In 1997, the board voted to lease the hospital to Tenet Health Systems for 30 years.

Today, with an annual operating budget of roughly $9 million, the District pursues its mission through a system implemented in 1998 where more than $3 million each year is allocated for grants and other programs. Grant funding is linked to fulfillment of the District's strategic plan, which focuses on enhancing the health of its residents.

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