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Thanks, SCOPE, for the lump of coal

Our View: Hospital lawsuits

Posted: December 27, 2008 5:28 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

That's the only word for the logic behind a pair of lawsuits that would block the expansion of our community's only hospital.

"What we hope to do is make sure that hospital beds and promised benefits to the community are really built," said Lynne Plambeck, president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment.

"It's not our intention to hold things up," added SCOPE board member Cam Noltemeyer.


We just went through an agonizing three-year approval process to get more hospital beds and specialized health care services, and somehow a lawsuit won't "hold things up" even more?

These people speak of guarantees. We've got a guarantee for them. We guarantee that any third-grader in Santa Clarita will understand how Santa Clarita must wait even longer for expanded health care, thanks to these lawsuits.

Go ahead. Try it out.

Tell little Johnny or Suzie it takes at least six years to build a hospital from start to finish - from the time the hospital people draw the technical pictures of the buildings to the time they cut the pretty ribbon at the grand opening.

Explain that it takes so long because the people who work in Sacramento with Arnold Schwarzenegger have to make sure everything is perfect.

Tell Johnny or Suzie the hospital people can't even start drawing the pictures until they know the courts say it's OK, because they don't use Crayons.

They have to hire fancy artists called "design architects" who use expensive pens and paper, and they can't hire them until they're totally sure they will be allowed to build the hospital because they can't get their money back.

Now tell Johnny or Suzie that a lawsuit will add at least 18 months - that's a year and a half - to the six-plus years it will already take and that there's a good chance they will graduate from high school before they see any new hospital beds.

Santa Clarita should be outraged.

Merry Christmas, Santa Clarita. Enjoy your lump of coal.

Even the formal opposition group, Smart Growth SCV, put away the gloves when the City Council finally approved the expansion plans Dec. 9.

"There remains no guarantee of an expanded hospital inpatient building, but we have no desire to further delay any possibility that it may happen," said David Gauny, Smart Growth SCV's outspoken leader.

"In the interest of the common good, we are determined not to cripple the project through a protracted lawsuit," he said.

Gauny's announcement made for a welcome headline, but the shine came off when we learned about these lawsuits.

"We believe the development agreement does not mandate there will be a hospital ever built," said Dr. Gene Dorio, spokesman for a brand-new group, Community Advocates for Healthcare SCV, one of the litigants.

Dorio, a prominent geriatric doctor, has often questioned the veracity of hospital administrators, and there's the rub.

To believe the development agreement needs to go even farther than it does - it already ties the construction of medical office buildings to the development of the new hospital wing - you would have to believe hospital officials don't really want to build a bigger hospital.

And that's patently absurd.

It's the litigants who don't want a bigger hospital. They are the only ones who are stopping it.

Why is SCOPE in it, anyway? Look up "obstructionist" in the dictionary and you'll find Lynne Plambeck. For two decades her organization sued the Newhall Land and Farming Company to block the expansion of Valencia, and for the past decade it sued the Castaic Lake Water Agency whenever it wanted to supply more water for our valley.

SCOPE even sued the city for approving the Gate-King project, an industrial park that would have added thousands of jobs without adding so much as one new house. That was about five years ago and the Gate-King project is still tied up in court.

Tell Johnny and Suzie the idea of an 18-month delay could be overly optimistic.

The common thread in every other SCOPE lawsuit was that it had at least something to do with SCOPE's mission to "promote, protect and preserve the environment of the Santa Clarita Valley."

The use of the hospital campus has nothing to do with the environment. There is no wildlife corridor and no oak forest to protect.

The only option available is an opportunity to help the animals that SCOPE seems to care about the least: the humans of the Santa Clarita Valley.

When you're trying to rush Johnny to a hospital in the "other" valley because he broke his leg playing high school football, or when Suzie needs her first mammogram, be sure to tell them the story of Lynne Plambeck, the person who put coal in our stocking and stole our valley's expanded health care.


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