The conflict over the southernmost hospital in Orange County and the land it sits on has stabilized, but the condition remains critical. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center officially discontinued all services on June 3, 2016, and the question of what to do about it remains open. In the mean time, the wound left by its absence affects all aspects of the community.
According to Memorial Care Health System, the parent company to San Clemente’s former Saddleback Memorial satellite, the beachside hospital’s nonemergency beds were staying empty, and the hospital was thus running out of money.
Local authorities pointed out the hospital’s closure would create a 40-mile gap in emergency services for civilians between Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside.
Community members have banded together to protest the hospital’s closure in its last few years, and all sides offered solutions:
Community proposal: The activist group Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital Foundation collaborated with the city to proffer two bills recommending a $32 million stand-alone emergency room in San Clemente. Stand-alone ERs offer virtually all trauma care without the inpatient bed space.2
The catch: Stand-alone emergency services are expensive. The Denver Posts notes, “People who mistake these new ERs for urgent care clinics can run up huge bills, increasing their own payments – particularly with high-deductible plans that are more common today.” A visit for a urinary tract infection, for example, would cost on average $112 in urgent care, and roughly $665 at an ER. A sore throat: $94 in urgent care and $525 in an emergency room. State legislators rejected the bills.
Health system proposal: When Memorial Care announced their intent to close the 73-bed hospital, the company pitched replacing it with a large advanced urgent care outpatient campus.
The catch: Although the $40 million project is heralded as a local and convenient high-quality alternative, it actually would not be qualified to perform critical care. State law prohibits ambulances from delivering to urgent care of any type. Further, the health care company would need to obtain all new city permits.
San Clemente City Council’s plan B: According to the Orange County Register, the local government had a game plan if the hospital closes. “The City Council, not wanting to lose the community’s local access to emergency services, is proposing to rezone the 6-acre site to preserve its use as a hospital, with accessory uses like outpatient services also permitted.” Tony Struthers, the hospital administrator expressed his shock the city would formally attempt to block all medical care proposals, save its favorite. “Narrowing this zoning only serves to restrict the available options for meeting the community’s health care needs.”
The missing link
Even when San Clemente hospital was in play, the Mission Hospital satellite in Laguna Beach was and is still the only emergency center in South Orange County that addresses acute psychiatric or drug overdose emergencies.
There has been no public proposal for emergency psychiatric or addiction recovery services here in San Clemente. These services are vital for the health and welfare of residents and should not be underestimated. Many people don’t seek needed treatment for fear of being suddenly absent from their community and away from children and partners.
The Sovereign Health Group serves here and across the country as a solid flagship for neighborhood mental health treatment of addiction, eating and mental disorder issues that manifest in our communities. Addiction and mental disorder are no respecters of borders. Parents, educators and business owners alike benefit from intelligent, tailored and local recovery support.
Sovereign customizes rehabilitation to the individual and bring brain boosting treatment and alternative therapies to your doorstep, so mental or behavioral health issues don’t develop into an emergency in the first place. Call our 24/7 helpline for details.
About the author
Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.