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By Jim Shilander

San Clemente residents, including a number of doctors and other employees at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center told the City Council Tuesday that it needed to intervene and stop or delay a plan to replace the current hospital, including its emergency room, with an updated urgent care facility.

Saddleback announced last month that it was considering a plan to raze the current facility, located on Camino De Los Mares, at the end of 2015 and then rebuild a new urgent care center with more capabilities than the current facility in early 2017. The current proposal includes the ultimate elimination of the emergency room.

The last point was the major stickler for many of the citizens who spoke at the meeting, all of whom voiced opposition.

Several employees said the proposal would put people at greater risk in emergency situations, particularly since the nearest alternative emergency room facility is an approximately 15 minute drive away.

A number of other residents cited experiences where using the facilitysaved their lives, as well as the city’s growing population and the lack of another emergency room facility in the tri-city area.

San Clemente High School Athletic Director Jon Hamro said the hospital is a vital part of quality of life in the city that needs to continue.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you’ll never get it back,” Hamro said.

Councilmembers asked that Saddleback hospital officials, as well as other stakeholder groups and organizations, such as the Orange County Fire Authority, which the city contracts with to occupy ambulances, be available at the next council meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 7, to further discuss the issue.

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