SAN DIEGO — San Diego has become the first county in the nation to earn geriatric emergency department accreditation for all 18 of its hospitals, local health officials said Thursday.

Representatives from local hospitals and health systems, including Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties and nonprofit group West Health, held a briefing at the University of California, San Diego.

The accreditation means that older adults across the region have excellent access to specialized emergency care, according to county officials. Roughly one-third of all emergency department visits in San Diego are seniors.

“The goal was to ensure that no matter which part of San Diego an older adult was living in, they would have access to high-quality senior-friendly care before, during and after a medical crisis,” reads a statement from Shelley Lyford, CEO and Chair, West Health and a commissioner on the California Commission on Aging. “The COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected seniors, only made all our work that much more important and the accomplishment that much more urgent and consequential.”

The accredited GEDs in the county include Alvarado Hospital Medical CenterKaiser Permanente San DiegoPalomar HealthParadise Valley HospitalScripps HealthSharp HealthCareTri-City Medical CenterUC San Diego Health and VA San Diego Healthcare System.

Health officials say GED accreditation is based on multiple factors including geriatric-focused policies and protocols, clinical and patient outcomes and staff, senior-friendly physical environment enhancements and quality improvement initiatives.