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San Clemente City Councilwoman Lori Donchak spoke to the Orange County Emergency Medical Care Committee on April 29 about why the hospital is important to residents of the city. Photo: Eric Heinz
San Clemente City Councilwoman Lori Donchak spoke to the Orange County Emergency Medical Care Committee on April 29 about why the hospital is important to residents of the city. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

After hearing testimony from dozens of San Clemente residents, the Orange County Emergency Medical Care Committee members said there are more issues to examine regarding the closure of the city’s only hospital, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.

On Friday, April 29, people spoke about why the hospital is so important them, San Clemente and South Orange County—the next closest facilities are in Laguna Niguel and Mission Viejo—and shared their own experiences with the hospital.

The county sent an emergency impact report to the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday outlining the statistics of the area and the testimony from public speakers. However, the hospital is expected to close May 31.

Committee members said after listening to the testimony of the public speakers, MemorialCare, the hospital’s network, has not seemed interested in continuing hospital operations.

“Our draft needs to be flushed out to reflect the testimony we’ve heard today,” Stratton said.

 An 82-year-old man, who said he emigrated to the United States years ago, is helped to the podium to speak about his need for a hospital and emergency room in San Clemente. Photo: Eric Heinz
An 82-year-old man, who said he emigrated to the United States years ago, is helped to the podium to speak about his need for a hospital and emergency room in San Clemente. Photo: Eric Heinz

The Orange County EMCC is required by the health code to put together an emergency services impact report when hospitals close. The report is then sent to the California Department of Public Health for evaluation. After that, the department will reply to the county with its findings. But because Saddleback Memorial Medical Center is a private, nonprofit entity, the report may not have any effect on it closing at the end of the month.

In April, MemorialCare sued the city of San Clemente after its City Council passed a zoning ordinance resolution that hospital officials thought was too restrictive on its operations and would deter other health care providers from purchasing the hospital.

Hospital officials and those who are advocating for keeping it open said potential buyers have been located and contacted, but the names of those entities have not been released.

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