Adventist Health officials announced Friday that South Coast Medical Center is for sale.

The announcement confirmed rumors that have reverberated around town since the Laguna Beach City Council began holding closed sessions a couple of weeks ago on the potential sale of the four parcels that make up the hospital campus owned by Adventist since 1998 in South Laguna.

“As a system, we have carried hospitals that are experience challenging times,” said Robert G. Carman, Adventist President and chief executive officer. “However, we cannot continue to sustain the magnitude of losses at SCMC indefinitely. “

Total losses were not available Friday.

The center is the only Adventist-owned hospital in Orange County and one of only four in Southern California.

“Adventist made the decision that they wanted to divest themselves of this facility because they are not going to expand in Orange County,” hospital President Bruce Christian said.

“I made the recommendation that it was in their best interests.

“This is a personal disappointment to me. I am proud of the service we have provided over the years that I have been here and will continue to provide until a change of ownership and I anticipate will continue beyond that.”

In an effort to stem the flow of red ink, the hospital’s maternity wing was closed in May.

In the wake of Adventist’s announcement, the city manager’s office issued a statement that the City Council has retained an attorney to advise the city on how best to advance the community’s interests in assuring the long-term sustainability of a high quality local hospital with emergency services during the sales process.

“I will do whatever it takes to keep a community hospital in our town,” Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Kinsman said.

City leaders have been and will continue to participate in discussions with the medical center administration, Adventist and the California Attorney General.

“The state Attorney General must review and approve the sale of any hospital in California,” Christian said.

He discounted the notion there would be no bidders for the facility in spite of the manifest challenges facing the health care industry throughout the country.

“I am confident that a buyer will step up and acquire the hospital,” Christian said.

Requests for proposals will go out later this month, according to Christian, who said he was not privy to the details.

The deadline proposals from potential buyers is Oct. 24.

“Every community hospital needs the support of the community and this hospital belongs to the community,” Christian said.

“I believe under the right circumstances with the right operator the hospital can be successful. I would not be adverse to staying on.”

Due to the complexities of the bidding process and regulatory review transfer of ownership is not expected until at least the first quarter of 2009.

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