Orange County Health Care Agency Cites Potential Impacts and Need for Data Regarding Potential Closure of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center Emergency Department in San Clemente

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 General News J E 4

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., May 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The latest development in the debate over the future of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in San Clemente is a report by the Orange County Health Care Agency's Emergency Medical Care Committee. Following a nearly two-hour public hearing on Fri., April 29, 2016, the committee on May 2 issued a report noting potential impacts and need for data regarding the planned closure of the facility's emergency department services.

The non-profit organization Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital has been fighting changes planned by MemorialCare to the services provided for some 40 years at the facility, now scheduled for complete closure on May 31.

At the hearing, several San Clemente residents related experiences illustrating their reliance on the facility, including stories of lives saved by access to a nearby emergency department, from an elderly individual's heart attack to the near-fatal drowning of a child. In addition, a particularly compelling horror story comparing an experience at another, larger hospital for colon surgery to past experiences at San Clemente Hospital highlighted the potential impact of losing the local facility.

Full audio testimonies from the hearing can be found at

The resulting Impact Evaluation Report included the following:

  • In short, our office has concluded that, although alternative hospitals are in relatively close physical proximity, any decrease in service to the affected population has undeterminable impacts to individuals and presumed impacts of increased emergency department wait times and ambulance diversion at alternative hospitals. We recommend that factors such as increased traffic, emergency department wait times and population growth be considered in the decision to approve or disapprove the closure of the emergency services at the SMMC-SC campus.
  • Of most concern is the communities' loss of an acute care hospital within a short distance of beach cities in south Orange County; and the isolation of this area due to freeway congestion, limited surface road access and restrictive topography. 
  • Traffic flow from the San Clemente area is of great concern to residents, especially with regard to current freeway construction and lane closures. This construction is not scheduled to be completed until 2018. Public comments indicate that the drive time from San Clemente to Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo, can often exceed 30 minutes. 
  • Construction of over 14,000 new residences in the South County area is in progress. This has the potential for approximately 28,000 more vehicles and a greater population of persons requiring healthcare and emergency services. This increased population will also result in more traffic gridlock on the main freeway access between SMMC SC and Mission Hospital to the north. 
  • Having EMS crews and vehicles with long transport times out of their service area may result in longer response times for emergencies. Additionally, the increase in population is anticipated to result in increased utilization of the 9-1-1 system. Because EMS crews and vehicles will be traveling further from the impacted community, there will likely be the need to add more EMS resources at a considerable cost to the community residents. 

"At the public hearing, we heard multiple stories about lives saved that otherwise would not have been saved. We heard about jobs lost. These stories are coming from real people in our community. They live and they work there," said Gus Gialamas, the hospital's past chief of staff and current chairman of Save San Clemente Hospital. "Market forces should not dictate the health and safety of our community. Keeping this tax-exempt, public-benefit hospital open is good public policy. We are pleased that the committee recognizes the potentially devastating impact this closure would have."

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.

The Save Saddleback San Clemente Hospital website at offers 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.


To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE Save San Clemente Hospital 501c3



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