By Ellen Ponciano, Dana Point

Most of my career has been spent in or around healthcare. The local hospital has always been part of the whole community. Staff and administration work with the community for the common good. This is especially the case when you have a not-for-profit hospital that is a “charity” 501(c)(3) governmental organization that receives tax free status to be available to the whole community.

Now MemorialCare wants to close San Clemente Hospital with very short notice to the community and the residents. Although six months sounds like sufficient notice, it does not allow time for Dana Point, San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano to budget, staff and purchase equipment that the extra demands on paramedics and police—being out of our city in Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills or even further—will cause. It will take more time to get to these further locations—an average of 20 minutes to Mission Viejo and 23 minutes to Laguna Hills—and that’s without the construction that’s going on now on Interstate 5. That takes resources out of our city. What that means is if you need the paramedics they may not be available. They will be tied up outside of the city. This costs lives.

We all want to work with MemorialCare to explore alternate ways they can build their vision, but also how the communities’ needs can be met. Several ideas have been floated at city council meetings about building the advanced urgent care, surgery center, along with a boutique hospital and emergency room on the existing property. There is even money available from other sources to help MemorialCare do this.

As of this writing (Feb. 15), MemorialCare is still refusing all calls to work with the community, the doctors, the cities and is basically telling all of us “it’s their way or the highway.”

Please MemorialCare, if you won’t work with the community, sell this hospital to an organization that is willing and wants to be part of this community, there are buyers waiting.

MemorialCare, delay your March vote to close our hospital and work with us.

MemorialCare, this is about more than you making more money. It’s about saving lives in our community.

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