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

By Jim Shilander

Members of San Clemente’s Hospital Advisory Committee were joined by representatives of MemorialCare at its meeting Thursday, Nov. 20.  Hospital administrator Tony Struthers and Dr. Myron Wacholder, a member of the hospital’s board, were not at the first meeting of the committee, held Nov. 4, due to scheduling conflicts.

The committee was formed in response to MemorialCare’s August statement announcing a proposed plan to replace the current hospital—located on Camino de los Mares on the San Clemente/Dana Point border—with an urgent care facility, eliminating the emergency room. Saddleback Memorial San Clemente campus is Dana Point’s nearest hospital and ER.

Wacholder, a former emergency room physician, said he “wholeheartedly supports the transition to an advanced urgent care,” which he said would offer nearly all of the same services as the current facility, plus more advanced care in other areas.

Struthers said MemorialCare has selected a potential developer and partnered with an architectural group to potentially put together its proposed advanced urgent care facility, which still must receive board approval. The proposal would include an advanced urgent care center, outpatient surgery center and relocating the current imaging center, now located in an office building across Camino de los Mares, into the facility.

The body also began working to combine a pair of ordinances for San Clemente City Council consideration officially opposing the closure. Much of the language is focused on the potential impact of the closure. Struthers and Wacholder said, however, that if language is included to that effect, there also needs to be language about the services available with a new medical center.

The committee will meet again Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. The council may consider the proposal at one of its two scheduled meetings before that date.

A new group, dubbed “Save San Clemente Hospital,” a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the current hospital open, has retained a former Riverside County District Attorney, Rod Pacheco, to investigate legal options to keep the hospital open.

“This is nothing less than an issue of public safety for every citizen within the communities served,” Pacheco said in a release. “Their lives may depend on the hospital remaining open. Litigation has successfully stopped closures before, and we are confident we can achieve the same result here, if need be.”

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