If you drive through neighborhoods in San Clemente, Capistrano Beach, San Juan Capistrano, or Dana Point, you will see “Save Our Hospital” signs in some front yards. And you may wonder, “What’s that all about?” I wondered the same. That’s how I became aware of what’s happening with the hospital in San Clemente.
Here’s what you need to know.
MemorialCare Health System operates San Clemente hospital (654 Camino de los Mares) as a satellite of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills. MemorialCare revealed plans to close the 73-bed facility in 2015 and replace it with a $40 million comprehensive outpatient medical center with advanced urgent care. The company says the change is necessary to deliver more efficient care at lower per-patient costs.
The reason you’re seeing “Save Our Hospital” signs in front yards is because the San Clemente Hospital has been the area’s main source of medical care services for more than 40 years. Opponents of the proposal say the loss of the emergency room that treats 15,000 visitors and admits more than 4,000 patients annually will “leave a 40-mile void between Oceanside and Mission Viejo.” I live in Capistrano Beach so, today, I live less than 2 miles from a hospital. If the San Clemente location closes, I’ll be 10 miles from the nearest ER.
According to MemorialCare, transforming the hospital and emergency room facility into a comprehensive outpatient medical pavilion with 24/7 advanced urgent care will better serve the population. Still, people are worried about the lack of a nearby ER. State law only allows ambulances to transport 911 patients to a state-licensed emergency room attached to an acute-care hospital. Opponents say San Clemente needs a hospital, and shutting down an ER in South Orange County as the population grows and traffic on the I-5 worsens just puts pressure on remaining ERs and on emergency medical services.
One possibility is to push for state legislation to allow a freestanding ER in San Clemente affiliated with Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills. The problem is that it could take three years to legalize such a facility. Will MemorialCare be willing to put a three-year moratorium on its plan to allow time for the freestanding ER to come to fruition? That remains to be seen.
Just this past Thursday (March 25), the board of MemorialCare announced that it is continuing to assess the feasibility of legislation to allow the San Clemente facility to maintain ER services. City councils in San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano have adopted resolutions to oppose closure of the existing ER and hospital, so the debate continues.
As a resident in South Orange County, and a realtor who truly believes this is a great community for my buyers, I feel more comfortable having ER services nearby. We will see how this issue evolves.