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

By Eric Heinz

In an effort to emphasize the importance of preserving emergency care services in South Orange County, Assemblyman Bill Brough and State Sen. Patricia Bates hosted a delegation of health legislators, MemorialCare officials and local city leaders from San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano during a tour of Saddleback Memorial Hospital on Friday, Sept. 18.

In the midst of a continually changing health care market, Saddleback officials announced in August 2014 they would not be able to sustain the current hospital as a fully-functioning inpatient facility. In order to provide necessary services, the hospital administration and board are trying to transform the San Clemente location into a satellite emergency room, which would continue to provide emergency services. However, it needs legislative support to be legally compliant.

Current state law prohibits emergency rooms without sufficient inpatient quarters. In March, Bates authored Senate Bill 787 and Brough authored Assembly Bill 911, which, if adopted, would allow Saddleback Memorial to provide freestanding emergency room services at the San Clemente site under a consolidated license. In April, the Assembly and Senate Health Committees heard the bills, but action was postponed in favor of further study. AB 911 is currently being reviewed by an Assembly interim study committee. The California Legislature reconvenes Jan. 4.

Bates said there will be some hurdles in passing the bill, but with the budding population in San Clemente and surrounding areas, she believes there is a need for a satellite emergency room in the city.

“We’re talking 100,000 directly in the service area,” Bates said. “In terms of South County, we have 350,000 people, many who do come through this facility.” Bates added that Rancho Mission Viejo development will bring in an additional 28,000 new residents.

The nearest emergency care facilities to San Clemente are Mission Hospital, about 12 miles away from the center of the city, and Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.

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