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Advancing Community wellness in the Coachella Valley

Our History


In May 2023, the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation published its long and impactful history of advancing health and wellness across the Coachella Valley, Written by veteran journalist Jeff Crider, the history book chronicles the Healthcare District evolution from an organization created in 1948 to build a hospital to an agency supporting many nonprofit organizations through grants, programs and policy decisions since 1997. 




(Hard copies of the history book are available by request. Please email to receive your copy.)

Prior to 1948, desert residents and visitors requiring hospitalization were transported to healthcare facilities in Indio, Loma Linda, Redlands, San Bernardino, and Riverside.

In 1942, when the United States entered World War II, the U.S. Army bought and converted the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs into the 1,600-bed Torney General Hospital for wounded soldiers. After the war ended in 1945, El Mirador saw several different owners until it reopened in 1952.

Desert Healthcare District was created in 1948 to serve residents within a 457-square-mile area of the Coachella Valley. The District included communities in the western end of the valley, with Cook Street as a cutoff. It now includes Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Thousand Palms, Rancho Mirage, Mountain Center, San Gorgonio, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Coachella and other unincorporated communities (see District boundaries).

Once established, the Board then built and operated Desert Hospital, now known as Desert Regional Medical Center (DRMC). The new District Hospital was a single building with 33 beds located on 7.85 acres of land on the hotel grounds. It cost $500,000 ($450,000 for the building; $50,000 for the land).

Purchasing the entire property in 1972, Desert Hospital transformed the once-glamorous hotel site into a modern hospital.


Major expansions included the CV’s first and only neonatal intensive care unit, state-of-the-art emergency/trauma and radiology centers, and the El Mirador Medical Plaza housing outpatient surgery center and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. In 1986, the District Board leased hospital operations to an established medical facility provider and for the next decade, District revenues ran the hospital. Coachella Valley’s only designated trauma center was added in 1993 and serves more than 8,000 square miles of Southeastern California.

In 1997, the Board voted to lease the hospital to Tenet Systems for 30 years. This prepaid lease positioned the District to meet outstanding debt obligations and enabled the hospital to become part of a nationwide healthcare company. Today, Tenet runs the hospital while the District retains ownership of the lease as well other assets including Las Palmas Medical Plaza.

The 387-bed acute-care hospital provides District residents with high quality, advanced healthcare services.

Through a system implemented in 1998, much of the impact for District residents today results from programs and grants approved by the Board. Nearly $4 million per year is provided for projects large and small improving the health of District residents. The District continues its commitment to the health of its residents by leading the community’s collective efforts to address:

Public health issues

Since 1999, more than $70 million has been allocated through a best-practices, grant administration department. District revenues from property tax, a medical building asset, and an investment portfolio support these efforts.


2017 Strategic Goals

GOAL #1: New Providers, Facilities and Services. Provide facility, provider and service initiatives that enhance delivery system capacity and promote stable, high-quality health services that respond to community needs.

GOAL #2: One Coachella Valley

Strengthen community health outcomes by implementing a District expansion that enhances and broadens community funding, considers the health needs of all residents, and effectively engages residents in the entire Coachella Valley.

GOAL #3: Community Health and Wellness

Demonstrably improve community health in the Coachella Valley leveraging District/Foundation investments and activities.


On Election Day, November 6, Coachella Valley voters overwhelmingly approved extending the District boundaries east of Cook Street. More than doubling the coverage area, the expansion enlarged the District to include La Quinta, Indio, Coachella, the rest of Palm Desert and Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes, Thermal, Mecca, North Shore and other unincorporated communities.


In January 2019, two residents from the newly annexed area were appointed to serve on the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation Board of Directors. Karen Borja of Indio was sworn in to serve until 2022, and Leticia De Lara, also of Indio, was sworn in to serve until 2020.