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Hearing scheduled on sale of hospital

Local folks will finally get a chance to make their feelings known about the sale of South Coast Medical Center and its value to the community.

The California attorney general’s office will conduct a public meeting at 5 p.m. April 29 at Top of the World Elementary School, 21601 Tree Top Lane, to hear comments on the proposed sale of the hospital and to consider a report on the impact of the sale on health care.

“I want as many people there as possible and I want to hear all the viewpoints,” said Deputy Atty. Gen. Wendi A. Horwitz, who will conduct the meeting. “The meeting will end when the last person who wants to talk is finished.”

The meeting time was scheduled to allow hospital staff, as well as residents, to attend.

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Longtime residents Arnold and Bonnie Hano plan to be there.

“We have a vested and human interest in the hospital,” he said.

Both the Hanos have been patients at the hospital.

“And my daughter was there for quite a while after she fractured her skull in a motorcycle accident,” Hano said. “We have always been happy with our treatment and the results.

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“It is vital to Laguna to have a nonprofit, full-service hospital here.”

The Hanos were among the donors to the original South Coast Community Hospital, the need for which became a priority in Laguna after Police Officer Gordon G. French died in 1953 from gunshot wounds on the way to the nearest hospital.

Local donations and grants funded the construction on the 22-acre site, deeded to the hospital by the James Irvine Foundation.

The 74-bed facility opened July 1, 1959.

Adventist Health, a California nonprofit religious organization, has owned and operated the hospital for the past decade, claiming losses in excess of $55 million — considerably more than Mission’s bid of $37.5 million.

The proposed sale to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center is Adventist’s second attempt to unload South Coast.

Terms of the sale, referred to as “a transaction,” were confidential until released by the attorney general’s office.

As laid out in the “Full Description of the Proposed Agreement and Transaction,” included in the 2-inch-thick folder of documents submitted to the state, South Coast Medical Center, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, will transfer substantially all of its assets to Mission, also a nonprofit public benefit corporation.

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The assets include the 208-bed acute-care hospital; two medical office buildings and real and personal property, including equipment, associated with the buildings; and intangible assets, such as the name, South Coast Medical Center, and employees, most of whom Mission intends to employ, according to the document.

The office building nearest South Coast Highway, valued at bout $9 million, was considered the property of the hospital’s fundraising foundation, until Adventist Health officials dissolved the foundation last fall and claimed its assets, to the indignation of foundation board members.

The agreement to transfer South Coast to Mission, which is part of the St. Joseph Health System, was reached Feb. 4.

Higher bids were tendered, but at least some did not meet Adventist criteria and were not in line with the wishes of Laguna Beach officials, who publicly stated a preference for a nonprofit buyer.

The terms of the proposed transaction are set forth in a Notice to the Attorney General, and a copy is available for public inspection in the Administration Office at South Coast Medical Center, 31872 Coast Hwy. A CD of the notice is also available upon request by e-mail to wendi.horwitz@doj.ca.gov or by telephone at (213) 897-2178.

An update on the status of the transfer is scheduled for the April 28 council meeting, the night before the hearing at TOW.

The Health Care Impact Report will be available before the meeting on the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.ca.gov/charities/nonprofithosp.php.

Anyone who wants to speak at the TOW meeting may sign in at the meeting or submit an e-mail to wendi.horwitz@doj.ca.gov or call (213) 897-2178 by April 28.

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Written opinions about the sale also may be submitted to Horwitz by e-mail, via facsimile at (213) 897-7605 or by mail to Wendi A. Horwitz, Deputy Attorney General 300 South Spring Street, Suite 1702, Los Angeles, CA 90013. The deadline is May 4.

Any individual with a disability who is seeking reasonable accommodations to attend or participate in the meeting or to obtain materials or information on the meeting in an alternative format should contact Horwitz at least five days before the public meeting.


BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 380-4321 or coastlinepilot@latimes.com.


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