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Our Opinion: A plan with hope

July 13, 2001

In the seemingly endless saga of Calexico Hospital there have been a lot of ideas discussed on how to open a facility that has remained closed for too long. With every decision there has been controversy and every effort to open the hospital has ended in failure.

Now there is a new idea on the table and, while it may not be perfect, it sounds like a good one. The Heffernan Memorial Hospital District voted unanimously this week to work with Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo Inc. to open an after-hours urgent-care clinic. According to Clinicas, the facility would be open from 6 p.m. to midnight seven days a week.

While Calexico residents deserve more than that, it's a start. Come sundown, there are no medical services in town. While El Centro Regional Medical Center isn't that far away in all reality, after-hours care is vital to a thriving and vibrant community.

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Still, the clinic isn't a done deal as there is a long road ahead before such a facility can open. Licenses and permits must be obtained before the center can come to fruition. It's a process that could take up to a year, and that's a long wait when the residents of Calexico are crying out for health care.

What's more, Clinicas director Louis Lerma has indicated the hospital may not even be seismically fit to work as a clinic. If that's the case, the building's owner, the Calexico Redevelopment Agency, needs to respond. We've long known Calexico Hospital could never reopen as such due to coming stringent earthquake standards.

Nevertheless, the idea of after-hours medical care in a community that has had none since the hospital closed its doors in late 1997 offers hope to a community that this could lead to something more substantial, like a real hospital.

We can only hope this latest effort doesn't end in vain like so many of the efforts to which the Heffernan board has attached itself in recent years.

But there is that glimmer of hope that this is different. The board has already proven itself responsible enough to make good on all past debt by refinancing its bonds to pay off loans and bills owed to both the city and other companies. It looks as though the district may have turned the corner this time. We can only hope.

Clinicas also deserves credit for coming forward on this project. It appears officials with Clinicas and the hospital district have found an opportunity that could be mutually beneficial to both. We urge them to stay focused on their plan.

This is an important beginning. Now it is time to take it to the next step and begin the journey down the road that we hope ultimately will end with Calexico having a full-fledged hospital. It had one in the past; it should have one in the future even if it means building a new facility.

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