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Hospital: Worth Pursuing

It’s difficult to tell whether last week’s UC Irvine faculty vote restating support for an on-campus hospital is nothing more than a long-range endorsement of the general plan for the campus--or a trial balloon to revive the drive for the medical facility.

That effort was abandoned in December, 1983, in the face of strong community opposition. Irvine residents, backed by the Irvine Co., were seeking approval from the state to build their hospital; they said Irvine was the largest city in the state without its own hospital. The state’s approval of Irvine Community Hospital in December, 1983, ended 17 years of competition among medical, university and community factions.

A spokeswoman for the UCI administration viewed last week’s vote as merely an endorsement of development plans through the year 2005. Those include 400 “inpatient beds . . . not necessarily a hospital” for highly specialized care that in no way would compete with the new, 177-bed community hospital, Irvine Medical Center, scheduled to open this fall.

But Dr. Hoda Anton-Culver, who headed the faculty committee that studied the on-campus hospital, seemed to have more immediate needs in mind as she described how inconvenient it isbecause of heavy traffic to be shuttling doctors and medical students between the campus and the UCI Medical Center in Orange--often several times a day--and how desirable it is for medical education and research to have a facility on campus. She saw the faculty vote as the first step in a long process.

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The issue of a campus hospital, which was so heated in the Irvine community several years ago, before UCI withdrew its campus hospital plans and agreed to support Irvine Medical Center, is not one that affects only the campus and Irvine residents. The development of a campus facility, no matter what kind, will have an effect throughout Orange County and the state.

Many hospitals, especially UCI’s Medical Center, are in serious financial trouble. They are operating in the red because state and local reimbursements do not come close to paying for the services provided for patients without the financial ability or insurance coverage to pay for hospital care.

We want to see UCI have its campus hospital. There has been and remains a need in the county for a bona fide research and medical center at UCI to provide residents with the kind of care that they must often leave the county to get. That is something worth pursuing and having--we hope before 2005.


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