By Shawn Raymundo
As part of the city’s ongoing attempts to get a hospital operating again in San Clemente, city council has moved ahead with plans to have a third party draw up documents necessary to initiate a proposal process for potential contractors.
In its Oct. 1 meeting, the council voted, 3-1, in favor of having Steve Rousso, a health care transactional expert, prepare a draft of a request for qualifications and proposals (RFP) so the city can begin receiving bids from hospital operators.
“The purpose of an RFP is to get interested providers,” said acting Mayor Dan Bane, who later added: “I’m going to see it to completion to see if we have contractors interested. I think the RFP is the next step to solicit bids. . . . It’s how we go about getting competitive bids.”
Councilmember Laura Ferguson voted against the item, saying she believes it’s not fiscally prudent.
The city has been without a hospital since May 2016, when MemorialCare closed down its Saddleback Memorial Medical Center located on Camino De Los Mares. The operator wanted to turn the facility into an urgent care location. But residents and the council, at the time, rejected such a notion, opining for an emergency room and hospital facilities.
In 2016, the city zoned the 6.63-acre parcel as required to provide emergency services. That prompted the yearlong legal battle between the city and MemorialCare, which sued the city over claims that the city’s “spot zoning” was unfair and made it difficult financially support the hospital.
MemorialCare had previously cited a lack of patients and could not provide the services required. It had also sought $42.5 million in retribution, the estimated value of the property, the San Clemente Times previously reported.
This past June, the city and MemorialCare reached a settlement agreement, which, the city noted, “provides broad latitude” for the two parties to explore “a mutually acceptable solution for use of the property,” as well as “discussions with third parties or regulatory agencies relating to the current or future use” of the property.
It also allows the city to acquire the property, currently owned by MemorialCare, “following a standstill period.” That standstill period is set to end on June 18, 2020; however, the settlement does give both parties an “opportunity to terminate the standstill period with 60 days’ notice” after Sept. 30, 2019.
“The City Council is eager to explore options for the acquisition, conveyance, and reopening of the hospital, with or without MemorialCare’s participation as operator,” the city stated in a report.
During the Oct. 1 council meeting, Dee Coleman, a San Clemente resident who’s currently running for the open city council seat, urged the council to first get an appraisal for the property done before moving forward.
“I just wanted to know if the city has done an MAI appraisal and if not, why no appraisal?” Coleman asked. “I think we need to bring in an appraisal to the public to determine if this is something that should be considered for an RFP.”
Coleman also questioned whether the city can afford to run a hospital.
Bane later stated that the city does have an appraisal for the property and that at “some point, we’ll probably have another appraisal.”
Responding to Coleman, Councilmember Chris Hamm explained that the point of the RFP process is to potentially partner with an organization for a public-private partnership, “so we wouldn’t be footing the bill for this.”
The city, the report also states, had hired Rousso to assist with the city’s efforts in reopening the hospital, potentially through a public-private partnership. According to the report, Rousso anticipates being able to present the draft RFP to the council at its Nov. 5 meeting.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.