SAN CLEMENTE – BREAKING – February 23, 2015 – A presentation to the city council Tuesday evening showed conclusively that MemorialCare’s claim that the San Clemente campus of Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers emergency room is “bypassed” by ambulances more often than not is false.
Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Division Chief Kirk Wells reported to the council the actual emergency room visit numbers – numbers that show that in 2014, 72 percent of local ambulance trips used Saddleback rather than MemorialCares claim that only 37 percent ambulance calls used the hospital.
Chief Wells also noted that a majority of ambulance trips that do in fact head to a different facility do so at the request of the patient or doctor, contradicting MemorialCares consistent claim that bypass decisions are made for medical reasons.
Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital activist Dr. Gus Gialamas said the OCFA report vindicates the organizations position as to how crucial a local full service emergency room is for the community.
The report also noted that the closure of the emergency room would most likely result in decreased paramedic unit availability (as they would be more likely to spend more time outside of the city while transporting patients to facilities further afield) unless the city added more ambulances at a potential cost to city coffers of up to $1.2 million per year.
“With the disturbing data provided by OCFA about negative consequences of the closure of the only local emergency room – data that is very different than that provided by MemorialCare – and the fact that their decision hinges on an internal feasibility study that no one has seen is extremely troubling,” said San Clemente Mayor Chris Hamm.
Local firefighter/paramedic Peter Curran noted the bypass number is actually smaller when one considers past year statistics and that a typical ambulance ride that goes to Saddleback is eight minutes shorter than those that go elsewhere.
“Speaking from personal experience, 16 minutes in the back of an ambulance with a critical patient is an eternity,” Curran said. “People will die in that extra eight minutes.”
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.