Saddleback Memorial Medical Center San Clemente Campus. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Saddleback Memorial Medical Center San Clemente Campus. Photo: Allison Jarrell

By Jim Shilander

Following the March 26 announcement that the MemorialCare board would indefinitely postpone a decision on its proposal to replace its current hospital in San Clemente with a 24/7 advanced urgent care facility, administrator Tony Struthers urged the San Clemente City Council to lead the charge in creating a community coalition to lobby support for twin bills in the state legislature that would allow for a “stand-alone” emergency room at the site.

Struthers said the city could partner with other cities, including Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo, which had each voted to oppose the closure of the hospital, as well as nonprofit and business groups, including the Save San Clemente Hospital Foundation that opposed the proposal. The Assembly version of the bill is slated to be heard by the health committee in the coming weeks.

Struthers said he is “optimistic” about the potential bill so long as it is confined to just San Clemente and not statewide.

Representatives from the Save San Clemente Hospital group, as well as San Clemente Mayor Chris Hamm, said they spent Monday lobbying on behalf of the bill in Sacramento. They reported receiving a mixed reaction, with some lawmakers expressing sympathy for the proposal. However, at least one group, the California Nurses Association, has announced opposition to the proposal.

Don Nielsen, Government Relations Director for the CNA called to proposal a “fraud on the public.” Nielsen said hospitals are required to support emergency departments with a number of services that would not be provided under the proposed outpatient pavilion, noting that with the emergency department is currently being bypassed by Orange County EMS on some calls due to a lack of certain support services at the hospital.

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