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Orange County

ER at Mission Hospital Gets $1-Million Gift

Rancho Mission Viejo's donation will be used to enlarge the center's emergency room.

October 14, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

An ambitious $10-million fund-raising campaign to increase the size of Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center's emergency room gets a booster shot today with a $1-million donation from Rancho Mission Viejo.

The expansion for south Orange County's only regional trauma center would more than double the number of emergency room beds, to 38 from 17.

Each year the emergency room sees about 50,000 patients, double what it was built to handle.

Meanwhile, life-threatening emergencies have increased by half over the last five years, hospital officials said, and ambulances have had to be diverted to other emergency rooms when Mission Hospital's facility was full, as happened for 12 days in one month last year.

The expansion and renovation of four trauma areas should be completed by early 2005.

The gift from developer Rancho Mission Viejo is the single largest donation to the hospital's current fund-raising campaign. Cost of the expansion will be covered by donations and loans.

Once completed, the expansion should allow patients to enter surgery within nine minutes of arrival, compared with the national average of one hour.

"The success of Mission Hospital continuing to provide quality medical care to the residents of south Orange County is assured with this generous donation," said Peter Bastone, the hospital's president and chief executive officer.

Hospital construction in 1971 was headed by Rancho Mission Viejo chairman Richard O'Neill and six doctors. In 1994, the hospital became part of the St. Joseph Health System, which operates 15 not-for-profit hospitals sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

"For 120 years, our family has been dedicated to balancing the great blessing of owning land with the responsibility to be a good neighbor and contributing member of the community," Tony Moiso, Rancho Mission Viejo president and chief executive, said in a prepared statement announcing the gift

The donation comes at a critical time for the ranch, which at one time stretched more than 200,000 acres from Aliso Creek in South County to Oceanside.

The family-owned company plans to build out its remaining 23,000 acres with 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of commercial space. It is the last large piece of undeveloped private property in the region.

Those development plans are being reviewed by county and state agencies through a process known as the Natural Communities Conservation Plan, which is intended to blend the desire for building with the need to preserve wildlife habitat.

Opponents have criticized Rancho Mission Viejo's project as too intense and have pushed for the property to be donated or sold for open space.

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