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EDITORIAL: Hospital concerns swirl

Issues and concerns abound about the sale of South Coast Medical Center to Mission Hospital, but one thing is clear: Laguna Beach needs its own local hospital. The facility is vital to the community and is a hub of health care despite the difficulties for hospitals in general.

Laguna Beach has had its own hospital for some 50 years. Its loss would be felt on many levels.

Under Adventist Health, the hospital was seen as a money-loser, but it appears that was due to Adventist’s very costly way of operating, with high-paid on-site administrators and an “administrative fee” that turned out to be about the same as the hospital was “losing” every month.

Adventist Chief Executive Bruce Christian took some interesting tacks, embarking on a plan to build senior assisted living on the site in addition to a new, seismically sound hospital. That never materialized, because Adventist decided to sell instead.

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Under Mission, the hospital will have less autonomy because it will be under the umbrella of that Catholic-run hospital chain. Without administrators dedicated to it, the Laguna hospital may not be as responsive to the local community.

Then there’s the fear of South Lagunans that the very valuable coastal property on which the hospital and its adjacent office building is located could be sold at a profit down the road. That’s the same concern that has been expressed for years about Adventist; it will be the same for any entity that takes over this hospital.

One thing some are hoping for is that the attorney general will require Mission to make a contract to stay with the hospital and keep it open for a specified time period. That’s something the state may be able to toss into the mix of conditions.

With the economy in a shambles and health care in need of a big overhaul, it will be interesting to see how the attorney general navigates these concerns.

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Strengthening and maintaining the hospital seems to be the most important goal.

It’s not only vital to the community’s overall health care but, as one of the largest employers, a major component of the community’s economic engine as well.



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