Built on a handshake: Scripps Encinitas marks 50 years

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Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas grew from the work of (left to right) Dr. Charlie Clark, Herman Weigand, Dr. Ron Summers and Dr. Dwight Cook. (Photo courtesy of Scripps Encinitas)

Helen Hawes

Although Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a photo retrospective of its inception, it is already looking toward its 100th anniversary by creating a time capsule that will be opened in 2064.

Staff members, former patients and members of the community recently gathered to unveil the photo display, which traces the history of the hospital back to its first groundbreaking back in 1963.

Dr. Charlie Clark and Dr. Dwight Cook had been practicing in a small office when they bought land from flower grower Robert Hall. Three years later, Herman “Pop” Weigand, a rancher and former patient whose family was one of the original homesteaders in Olivenhain, put up his Bank of America stock for the doctors to use as collateral for a loan to construct a building.

They named it Encinitas Convalescent Hospital. The deal was done on a handshake.

The following year, the doctors were referred to and recruited Dr. Ron Summers, who had been three years behind them in school in Kansas.

The story is one of “humble beginnings and a great vision,” Summers said. Before the hospital was built, patients had to go to Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside or Scripps in La Jolla via surface roads because the freeway wasn’t built yet.

To ensure future expansion, the doctors bought more land from Hall. In the mid-1970s, they joined in a partnership and expanded into acute care, adding full medical-surgical capabilities, an intensive care unit and emergency department. The newly named San Dieguito Hospital opened in 1975 and drew orthopedists and surgeons to the facility.

In 1978, the doctors decided to concentrate more on their practices than on management. They chose to sell to Scripps because, according to Summers, “they had a reputation for excellent patient care.”

Under the new administration, the birth pavilion was added in 1992 and the rehabilitation unit expanded.

Plans for growth

Currently, the hospital has 80,000 patient visits per year and is growing again. With new construction, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas will add a $94 million Critical Care Building that is due to open in 2014. A four-level parking structure will also be added.

There will be a campaign kickoff and donor wall inside the hospital expansion to raise funds. Summers noted that former patients have often donated to ensure the hospital’s growth and success. But he also credits the community.

“It wasn’t just the (initial) physicians alone who made this happen,” Summers said. “It was the combined efforts of community participation, patients as well as other physicians in the area who supported it and the Scripps organization.”

The historical photo display will be installed for public view just inside the lobby of the hospital by late June.

In the meantime, Scripps is accepting time capsule items such as photos, notes and keepsakes that are hospital related from 1964 to today. Each piece should have the donors’ names and a short description of the item so that it’ll be easy to understand when it’s unearthed in 2064.

Items can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the front desk at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, 354 Santa Fe Drive.

Helen Hawes is a North County freelance writer