Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte is shutting down its emergency room and acute-care facility today, closures that officials blame in part on the state's nursing shortage.
The hospital's 177-bed skilled nursing facility, outpatient surgery center and fertility clinic will remain open, said Sister Michelle Clines, chairwoman of the hospital's board of directors.
The hospital had slowly cut back on its acute-care beds, from a high of 150 in 1987 to fewer than 40 last year. Santa Teresita's emergency room saw about 12,000 patients a year who were not brought in by paramedics in ambulances and approximately 1,700 brought in by paramedics.
The closing of Santa Teresita's emergency room further strains the county's emergency medical services system. More than a year ago, St. Luke Medical Center in northeast Pasadena closed its doors.
"Every ER that closes in L.A. County puts greater pressure on our system, which is already overwhelmed," said Carol Gunter, acting director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency.
At Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, about five miles south and the closest hospital to Santa Teresita, officials are preparing for a 25% increase in emergency room patients. "It will mean about one more person an hour, about 24 more patients a day," said Lynn Ingram, a spokeswoman for Methodist Hospital.
She said the hospital had been talking to members of the nursing staff at Santa Teresita in the hopes of hiring them.
Santa Teresita was founded in 1930 as a tuberculosis sanatorium by the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart. It became a fully accredited hospital in 1956, and its campus covered 14 acres in Duarte.
Many of its nurses have worked at Santa Teresita for 10 to 30 years because they are committed to working for a Catholic hospital, said the nursing supervisor, Mark Cline.
Although Sister Clines did not have figures on layoffs, she said many of the hospital's 475 employees would stay on because most of its operations are linked with its skilled nursing facility and other clinics.