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Loma Linda Council Hears Debate on Hospital Plan

Times Staff Writer

The Loma Linda City Council heard heated testimony Tuesday night about the potential effects of a controversial specialty hospital but had not voted on the proposal by late evening.

Gail Moore, a Riverside resident who works for Loma Linda University Medical Center, was one of several hundred people who attended the hearing.

“To me, they’re money-hungry. They’re out to make a quick buck,” she said of the proposed hospital’s backers. “They’re taking our patients.”

The proposal to build the 28-bed California Heart and Surgical Hospital has turned this small community into a hotspot in the national debate about the impact of specialty, or boutique, hospitals on nearby general-care facilities. Federal officials estimate that about 100 specialty hospitals exist nationwide.

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Local hospital officials view the proposed facility as a profiteer that could siphon away insured patients, making it more difficult for community hospitals to care for the poor.

Supporters of the $50-million boutique hospital have defended it as a top-notch facility where doctors can personalize healthcare, try innovative procedures and help treat the region’s booming population.

Bill Arsenault, a consultant for the proposed hospital, compared the local healthcare system to a sick patient. “The doctors couldn’t stand idly and let this sick patient suffer,” he told City Council members.

Both sides of the debate have bombarded the community with mailers and cable ads, and the City Council has been blitzed with several hundred phone calls and letters in recent weeks.

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Save Our Community Healthcare Access, a group that includes several area hospitals, held a rally outside City Hall before the meeting.

At the meeting, residents and medical officials packed the chambers, many wearing buttons proclaiming their opposition to the physician-owned hospital.

Three of the five council members have recused themselves from the decision because of ties to the Loma Linda University hospital. They drew straws to decide that Mayor Floyd Petersen, who teaches at the university, would cast the third vote.


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