Non-Profit Organization Formed to Counter Significant Cutback of Saddleback San Clemente Hospital Services

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A non-profit organization called Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital (501C3) has been formed to fight the planned closure of the facility’s hospital bed and emergency room services by MemorialCare Health System. MemorialCare operates the facility as a satellite of its Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills.

Saddleback San Clemente Hospital has provided healthcare access for over 40 years to San Clemente and the surrounding area including Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. It is the sole emergency care facility for the city and will leave a 40-mile void between Oceanside and Mission Viejo if closed. San Clemente has 65,000 residents and swells to over 100,000 on the weekends. In addition, nearby Rancho Mission Viejo is planning 14,000 new homes. The facility treats some 15,000 emergency room visitors and admits over 4,000 patients per year. It also generates over 200 jobs.

MemorialCare plans to convert the hospital into a medical office building, outpatient surgery and urgent care center. Paramedics cannot bring sick patients to urgent care centers under California law, and urgent care centers are not required to treat all residents regardless of ability to pay.

“Everyone in our community has either been a patient or known family and friends who have been patients at San Clemente Hospital which is why we all agree that having an emergency room nearby is more than a privilege, it’s a necessity,” said San Clemente physician Dr. Gus Gialamas. “Our mission is to ensure that every resident has access to a higher standard of ER healthcare. Our non-profit foundation was formed to spread the word and get our communities involved in stopping this closure.”

The non-profit has hired noted trial lawyer and former Riverside County, District Attorney Rod Pacheco to explore the potential for litigation to prevent the closure. Pacheco has recently joined Theodora Oringher PC, a nationally recognized Orange County litigation firm with a deep health care practice. “This is nothing less than an issue of public safety for every citizen within the communities served. Their lives may depend on the hospital remaining open. Litigation has successfully stopped closures before, and we are confident we can achieve the same result here, if need be,” said Pacheco.

The Los Angeles Times maintains a database of emergency rooms, including those closed over the last decade, noting that “Emergency room physicians say the closures have led to long waits, diverted ambulances and, in the most extreme cases, patient deaths. The closures also mean that patients in need of emergency care will travel farther, delaying access to treatment.”

In addition, a recent article in the journal Health Affairs cited a marked increase in emergency department visits from 1996 to 2009 in the U.S. compared with a decline in available facilities. The study also found a link between hospital inpatient mortality and admissions occurring near an emergency department closure. In addition, the article noted recent studies showing that increased demand for and distance to emergency departments can be linked to declines in patient outcomes.

Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital (501C3) has created a website at www.savesanclementehospital.org with information on this issue as well as opportunities for area residents to share stories about the facility; find email addresses for contacts at MemorialCare, the San Clemente City Council and the local U.S. Congressman; see listings of upcoming City Council meetings; sign a petition on the issue; and make a financial donation.

Sources:

Los Angeles Times
California’s dwindling emergency rooms
http://projects.latimes.com/hospitals/emergency-rooms/

Health Affairs
Charles Liu, Tanja Srebotnjak and Renee Y. Hsia
California Emergency Department Closures Are Associated With Increased Inpatient Mortality At Nearby Hospitals
Health Affairs, 33, no.8 (2014):1323-1329
doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.1203

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SOURCE Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital (501C3)