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A nonprofit group has retained an attorney to consider legal action to keep Saddleback Memorial’s San Clemente campus open. Photo: Jim Shilander
Photo: Jim Shilander

By Jim Shilander

The State Assembly Health Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to send a bill that would allow MemorialCare to keep an emergency room at its San Clemente hospital campus—Dana Point’s closest hospital—if it transforms the hospital from its current setup to an advanced urgent care facility to a study committee, which would potentially put off relief for the hospital until Jan. 1, 2017.

Assemblyman Bill Brough of Dana Point is offering the bill, which only exempts San Clemente’s hospital, rather than creating a statewide precedent.

The bill is being opposed by the California Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union and other groups, who said during the hearing that a freestanding emergency room would not provide the level of service necessary to justify keeping an emergency room designation.

Councilman Bob Baker, who appeared in support of the bill, said he was happy to see bipartisan interest in the bill. Assembly members of both parties expressed mixed feeling about the bill during the hearing, with some worrying about potentially setting precedent, while others wished to examine it on a more regional basis as an issue that also affected other hospitals in Southern California.

The State Senate Health Committee was scheduled to review the Senate version of the bill, presented by Patricia Bates, Wednesday.

Hospital administrator Tony Struthers declined to comment about how the move would affects the hospital’s continued feasibility study until after the Senate hearing.

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