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By Carol Wilson, Capistrano Beach

Dana Point passed a resolution at the City Council meeting this week to request MemorialCare continue to provide emergency medical services for Dana Point residents, business and visitors. It asks that emergency room services not be impaired by changes to the existing Saddleback MemorialCare San Clemente Campus. I am grateful the City Council recognized what a serious issue it is if our local hospital closes and ER services are no longer available.

On March 24, the 14-member board of directors of Saddleback Memorial will vote to close this hospital. That decision will affect 100,000 people living in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano alone. The farther reaching problem will be with the loss of the ER in San Clemente and the closure of ICU rooms in Mission Laguna. It is extremely likely that there will be only 64 ER beds to serve 385,000 people.

Saddleback Memorial is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt charity organization. As they pay no taxes, they are required to file a public benefits statement annually.

Here are a couple of excerpts from their 2012 and 2013 statements regarding our local area.

2012: “Within Saddleback Memorial’s service area are a number of communities with disproportionate unmet health needs. Two groups have been identified as vulnerable populations, older adults 65 and above (14 percent), and families (33 percent) living in poverty in the neighborhoods of Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.”

2013: “Portions of Capistrano Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano are designated as medically underserved population. This MUP designation is given to areas with populations that have economic barriers, low income, on Medicaid eligible populations, or cultural and or linguistic access barriers to primary medical care services.”

How can 14 people on the board of a charitable organization deny healthcare to an underserved population that they have identified in their own public benefit statements? These directors, with the exception of one, do not even live in our area and will be voting strictly on internal financial information provided by Saddleback with no study or survey from any impartial source. How can an organization such as this continue to receive tax free benefits under the law when they fail to even follow their own stated charitable goals?

The saddest and most tragic part of this is the loss of life that will happen and that MemorialCare has refused to even come to the table and discuss alternative ways that they can implement their vision and still meet the community needs.

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