Battle being waged over fate of San Clemente hospital

Contentiousness is rising in south Orange County over a proposal to replace San Clemente’s acute-care hospital with a larger outpatient care center – minus the emergency room.

San Clemente’s elected leaders are considering adopting a resolution opposing closure of the 73-bed hospital, which has served the community for more than 40 years. An organization called Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital has an online petition

Triggering these reactions was MemorialCare Health Systems’ announcement in August of a plan to replace the 62,000-square-foot hospital and ER with a 103,000-square-foot facility designed to offer a wide range of medical services more conveniently and at less cost than in a hospital.

It’s the direction medicine, insurance and health plans are heading, MemorialCare said.

But the implications of shutting down the ER raised red flags with the Orange County Fire Authority, which said closure of the ER would mean longer paramedic transports for emergency patients from San Clemente and Dana Point and could impact wait times at other ERs, also keeping paramedics out of service in their community for longer periods and increasing costs to the cities served.

MemorialCare, which owns and operates Saddleback Memorial San Clemente, said most patients seen in emergency rooms don’t need to be in an ER, and paramedics already bypass San Clemente’s E.R. because of taking emergency patients to specialty ERs.

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