By Annemarie Ross, Capistrano Beach

Seeing the front page of the DP Times last week, the “Save Our Hospital” movement is front and center in Dana Point—finally.

Although the Saddleback Memorial San Clemente Hospital is used more by the southernmost part of Dana Point (Capistrano Beach), demolishing this hospital and emergency room will affect people who don’t ever go to the San Clemente hospital. How? Once the ER is closed, the patients seen there, especially patients with serious or life threatening issues will be going to whatever hospital you are relying on to help them. What this causes a domino effect. When one ER is full, ambulances are diverted to other ERs even further away. That increases the wait time you will experience in the waiting room at Mission Hospital—even if you go there on a gurney with paramedics—as there won’t be an ER room available for you.

If you go to Mission Laguna, the ER is currently operating due to a $10 million donation from the Gross family. Were you aware that Mission Laguna has closed down their intensive care unit rooms and any serious patients have to be transported to Mission Hospital in Laguna? Some people are dying in the ambulance on the way from Laguna to Mission Viejo. A $50 million earthquake retrofit is needed at Mission Laguna and it doesn’t appear St. Joseph Healthcare thinks it‘s worth the money to fix it, so ultimately it too will close down.

If both San Clemente Hospital and Mission Laguna close down, that will leave just 64 ERs for 385,000 people in the surrounding cities that use Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and Saddleback Laguna Hills. That reduces your chance of survival living in south Orange County, due to transport time to a facility that has room for you, not to mention the impact on your property values if there is no hospital nearby.

Saddleback Memorial (MemorialCare) could help the community instead of hurt the community if they would delay their March vote on closing San Clemente Hospital and work with the community to get what they want and give the community what we need. There are several approaches to this issue that will allow us to keep the hospital and ER and still allow Saddleback their vision of healthcare of the future. The question is; why is MemorialCare refusing to work with the community for a plan that will serve everyone?

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