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Hospital to provide tremor surgery

A program to reduce or stop the tremors of Parkinson’s Disease safely will begin March 1 at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.

Parkinson’s Disease is the best known of the movement disorders to be treated by a surgical procedure that is performed in large academic medical centers, but rarely in community hospitals, according to Mission officials.

“Mission Hospital is known nationally, even internationally, for its neuro-science program, which includes treatment of strokes and traumatic brain injuries,” said Vice President of Operations Michael Beck. “A piece of that is the Movement Disorder Program, which will complement services on the Mission Viejo campus.

Physicians who had previously performed the procedure are already on the staff of the Laguna campus.

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“The technology is expensive, but the procedure is not,” Beck said.

Medicare should cover the costs.

Beck announced the program Tuesday night at the third in a series of Neighbor Forums, held by the hospital to offer residents an opportunity to hear updates on issues, practices, policy or plant changes, to question hospital officials and to apprise them of concerns.

Only six residents attended.

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“There were fewer people Tuesday than the last meeting I attended,” said South Laguna resident Gayle Waite, a Realtor and president of the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club.

“I was appalled. There were easily 25 or 30 people at the last South Laguna Civic Assn. meeting and we talked about the hospital. I thought for sure association people would be at Tuesday’s meeting.”

However, the meetings are not solely for South Laguna residents.

“Maybe they should be held on a Saturday or not so often,” Waite said. “It is hard for employed people to get to the meetings at 6:30 p.m. on a weekday night. And I have never received a notice from the hospital about the meetings, nor have my neighbors. Maybe they need to be better publicized.”

Tuesday’s agenda included updates on hospital landscaping, the relocation of the MRI, and reasons why the popular cardiac rehabilitation program was discontinued — issues raised by the public at the last forum.

In response to concerns expressed at the January meeting about overgrown, unsafe and collapsed trees, the hospital has laced eucalypti on the north side of the campus and is assessing others. Neighborhood concerns have not been completely resolved.

“Native trees are growing through the fence on Sunset,” Barbara Gray said.

And clippings have been dumped there.

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John Gray said he saw a landscaper dump a whole truckload there.

Further pruning waits on a survey of the hospital property lines to determine who is responsible for the trees and vegetation.

Asked by resident Margot Kirkpatrick if the hospital didn’t known the boundaries, Beck said, “Not exactly. We have no timeline.”

Landscape architect and former Mayor Ann Christoph informed hospital officials that vegetation has been removed from one area on the Eighth Street side of the campus.

“It’s just dirt,” she said.

The hospital’s proposed landscape plan is in limbo.

“The Design Review Board approved some of it,” Beck said. “We are reviewing our proposal and plan to bring it in line with city guidelines.”

A local landscape architect will be hired to assist.

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The hospital’s sign program and exterior paint palette have been approved. New signs should be up by middle-to-late April, Beck said. Painting will be preceded by power washing the main building, which is set to begin next week.

“The painting should be complete around May,” Beck said.

As for the central plant, upgrades in air conditioning, heating and water management, now in the first of three phases estimated to cost between $8 million and $10 million, are expected to be completed by October, Beck said.

The hospital has no plans to move ahead with the Cancer Center proposed by previous owner Adventist Health, to reinstate the maternity ward closed by Adventist or reopen the cardiac habilitation program on the Laguna campus shut down by Mission.

Neither the quality nor the demand for the local cardiac rehab program met Mission standards, Beck said.

“The Mission Viejo campus has more elaborate and better equipment and the volume [attendance] didn’t justify keeping it up on the Laguna campus,” Beck said.

Free transportation for seniors to Mission Viejo is available and travel times are being tracked.

However, Beck said if a true community need was identified the hospital might take another look at its decision.

Besides being updated on issues, the forum presented folks with the opportunity to make suggestions and to ask questions and get some answers.

Larry Gibney urged the hospital to take another look at public parking and the summer tram stop on the campus. Neighbors’ quality of life is adversely affected he said.

The California Coastal Commission requires the hospital to reserve 50 spaces for public parking, now limited to after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

“We get to choose the hours,” said Paula Serios, vice president of marketing and promotion.

The impact on doctors is one of the factors in the choice, Serios said. Most are done by 5 p.m., she said.

The Grays recommended putting up a “Quiet” sign for drivers to make them aware that they are on hospital grounds.

Barbara Gray also recommended the hospital hire English-speaking employees or hold classes.

She said when she recently was in the hospital, she could not communicate that the wrong dosage of medicine had been brought to her.

Gibney wanted to know if there was any chance the hospital’s Emergency Department would be upgraded to a trauma center.

“The short answer is no,” Beck said. “A trauma center is extremely expensive. That is why there are only three in Orange County and Mission [in Mission Viejo] is the only one in South County.”

Asked by Waite to define a hospital, Beck said it provides core services: an emergency department, operation rooms, critical and acute care facilities, support services and a behavioral health department.

“Questions have been raised about whether our hospital will stay, but we are committed,” Beck said. “We have two goals: to provide excellent medical care and to be good neighbors.”

Residents are invited to bring questions and suggestions to the next Neighbor Forum at 6:30 p.m. March 16 in the Community Room of the hospital.



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