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Lyle Gialamas, San Clemente

I am writing in response to the recent announcement by Saddleback Memorial that they are closing the San Clemente hospital and its emergency services May 31. When I became aware of this decision to convert the emergency department/hospital to an advanced urgent care, ambulatory and surgery center, I became extremely concerned about the future of healthcare not only for San Clemente but surrounding communities as well.

Physicians and nurses who work and live in this community immediately met and discussed these concerns and realized MemorialCare had provided the community with their vision but the truth of the impact of the closure of the emergency facility had not been shared with the citizens.

Having been an emergency department nurse, emergency department nurse manager, coordinator for prehospital care and inter-facility critical care transport operations manager prior to becoming a family primary care nurse practitioner provided me with the background to understand exactly what this closure would mean to our citizens and surrounding communities.

As healthcare providers, we decided to provide our communities with the research data available and allow our friends and neighbors to make an informed decision about their future healthcare needs.

In this fashion, Save San Clemente Hospital was formed with the intent of assuring the information would be shared with those interested in learning. Our website and Facebook pages were developed and research data posted. What is most compelling is the correlation between time to care and outcome. Time to care includes not only travel time to the closest emergency department but also time in the waiting room or for the triage nurse or transfer from the paramedics to the receiving team. There is no disputing the increase in mortality rates as time to care increases. There is also no disputing as the 14,000 homes in Rancho Mission Viejo are completed the increase in population density will impact time to care.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have many studies available online to provide all of us with an unbiased picture of our future without our emergency department and hospital. Ware Malcomb, an architectural firm, donated their services and designed a less expensive facility than MemorialCare had planned that could not only maintain services while being built but would provide MemorialCare with the ambulatory facilities, surgical services, medical office spaces and urgent care facility they wanted.

It was called the “Win-Win” alternative because the ED and hospital were smaller than is currently in place. Indeed, MemorialCare supported the bills by both Assemblyman Bill Brough and State Senator Patricia Bates to maintain a free-standing ED as they acknowledge the need for emergency services in South Orange County.

Although MemorialCare does not believe an emergency department and hospital are viable in the new healthcare climate, there are other hospital groups who disagree and would love to partner in health with the communities of South Orange County.

Now that MemorialCare has announced closure, Save San Clemente Hospital and its 12,000 supporters hope they will decide to sell the facility to a hospital group interested in sharing our healthcare futures with us.

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