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Medical center put on block

South Laguna hospital is losing too much money, owner Adventist Health says while seeking bids for the facility.

September 18, 2008|By Barbara Diamond

South Coast Medical Center has a “for sale” sign on it for the second time in three years, but hospital officials stress that the hospital will remain fully operational until it can be turned over to a new owner.

Adventist Health officials announced Sept. 12 that they were no longer willing to absorb the financial losses sustained by the center and were preparing to shuck it.

The announcement confirmed rumors that had bounced around town since the Laguna Beach City Council began holding closed sessions regarding the potential sale of properties with addresses that correspond to the four parcels that make up the hospital campus in South Laguna.

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“As a system, we have carried hospitals that 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.”

Efforts to reach Adventist on Monday were unsuccessful.

This time there will be no reprieve, opined center President Bruce Christian.

“Adventist made the decision that they wanted to divest themselves of this facility because they are not going to expand in Orange County,” Christian said. “I made the recommendation that it was in their best interests.”

The center is the only Adventist-owned hospital in Orange County.

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

On the heels 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.

Hearings will be held locally, according to the city’s statement.

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