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A rendering of the potential look of a proposal for a medical pavilion at the current site of the Saddleback Memorial San Clemente campus. Photo: Courtesy MemorialCare
A rendering of the potential look of a proposal for a medical pavilion at the current site of the Saddleback Memorial San Clemente campus. Photo: Courtesy MemorialCare

By Jim Shilander

South Orange County state legislators Bill Brough and Patricia Bates have both introduced legislation allowing Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s San Clemente campus to operate as a stand-alone emergency room, a bill the legislators say they hope will provide a “consensus” between MemorialCare and area residents who have protested the potential closure of the emergency room at the campus.

Bates, state senator for the 36th District, which includes San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point, and Brough, assemblyman for District 73, which also includes all three cities, introduced identical bills on Friday, Feb. 27. The bills each include provisions specifically exempting Saddleback Memorial Medical Center from regulations prohibiting stand-alone emergency rooms.

“The people of South Orange County deserve convenient access to emergency health care services, and we are committed to doing everything we can in the Legislature to preserve that access,” Bates and Brough said in a press release announcing the legislation. “Our legislation is meant to facilitate a consensus between the hospital’s operator and the community, and we will continue to work with everyone in the weeks ahead.”

Previous estimates for the time it would take to pass such legislation has been three years, though Bates has said she believes the process could take less time than that.

MemorialCare has proposed replacing the current facility with an advanced urgent care facility that would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, the proposal would eliminate an emergency room under current law, though MemorialCare officials have indicated a willingness to keep an emergency department if regulations are changed.

Hospital administrator Tony Struthers said he welcomed the effort.

“We are pleased that State Senator Patricia Bates and State Assemblyman Bill Brough have introduced legislation in their respective chambers to advance the dialogue with their legislative colleagues,” Struthers said in an email. “We continue to support regulatory and legislative options that will allow us in a timely fashion to integrate emergency services in our vision for a unique outpatient medical pavilion that will bring together many health care services in one location.”

The Senate version of the bill can be read here.

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