Deep roots in the desert
The El Mirador Hotel
Desert Regional Medical Center has its roots in the old El Mirador Hotel, a chic spot for tourists visiting the Coachella Valley. Spanish for “watchtower” or “look-out tower,” the name referred to its majestic bell tower. The hotel was built in 1927, opened on New Year’s Day 1928 and quickly became a hot spot for celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Jackie Cooper, Gloria Swanson and Albert Einstein. Because it featured the only Olympic-sized pool in the valley, a young Johnny Weissmuller practiced swimming in it and went on to win a gold medal in the 1932 Olympic Games.
Serving the U.S. Army
In 1941, during World War II, the U.S. government commissioned the hotel and turned it into Torney General Hospital. The military hospital treated wounded soldiers and returning prisoners of war. In 1947, the state Legislature passed the California Hospital District Act to encourage the construction of hospitals in growing rural areas. Desert residents voted in 1948 to create the Desert Hospital District. Palm Springs Community Hospital opened in 1951 and soon became Desert Hospital. It was a single building set on 7.5 acres and was built for about $500,000. It was the only medical facility in the greater desert area.
In 1962, ground was broken for the hospital’s first 22-bed wing. An additional East Tower expansion resulted in a total of 121 beds. In 1973, the Desert Hospital District bought 19 more acres of land, and Desert Hospital purchased the El Mirador Hotel. The first major expansion in 1981 included a 10-suite surgical pavilion and support services in the five-story Sinatra Patient Tower. The Tower also held a new intensive care/coronary unit and a pharmacy. Phase II of the expansion increased the total number of beds to 350 and also added a rehabilitation center; maternity pavilion; oncology unit; cardiology and gastrointestinal labs; radiology, respiratory and pulmonary departments; an expanded emergency department and a chapel. A comprehensive cancer center opened in 1989 that featured a multidisciplinary approach to coordinated cancer care.
A history in ashes
In July 1989, the last remaining portion of the El Mirador Hotel burned to the ground. But a fundraising effort resulted in the rebuilding of the hotel’s iconic tower. That same year, the hospital built a new Women and Infants Center and Emergency Trauma Center.
A symbol remains
In 1997, the Desert Healthcare District contracted with Tenet Healthcare Corporation to operate the hospital.
Today, Desert Regional Medical Center is the only Level II Trauma Center in the Coachella Valley – providing service to Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial and San Diego counties as well as parts of Arizona and Nevada. The center includes specially trained surgeons, critical care units and diagnostic and rehabilitation services.
The El Mirador Bell Tower marks its entrance.