Opinion: Village Matters

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Ghostly Path

A post office without stamps, an emergency room without pillows? The poor, dedicated people working in these South Laguna facilities apologize, “We keep asking for them, but headquarters never sends enough.”   

Headquarters would love to close the South Laguna Post Office and has tried to accomplish that several times. With community protest, we have persuaded them to keep it open. But they are strangling it, reducing the hours it’s open to only three per day and neglecting the cleaning and maintenance of the building and exterior. It gives the impression of a building one step removed from a post office in a ghost town. In fact, it has a local nickname, “the Ghost Office.”

A similar technique seems to be being used at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach. In the decades I have lived here, that facility has threatened to close many times. Community involvement—along with generous donations—has always prevailed, and the hospital remains open. But its services have been reduced step by step.

In the past month, I have become an expert in emergency rooms and hospital services, having had nine such visits. Procedures, blood tests, an emergency room visit at “Big Mission” in Mission Viejo, and the rest at the Bill and Sue Gross Emergency Room at “Little Mission” here in South Laguna. I needed a blood test to prepare for the initial procedure (ablation). “Can’t I get my blood taken here at the South Laguna hospital?” I asked. “No, the doctor is not affiliated with that hospital,” I was told. (Aren’t the two hospitals affiliated? They can’t share lab test info?) But no, I had to drive to Mission Viejo just to have blood drawn. The tiny waiting room was crowded. No one was leaving. More people were coming. It was over an hour before my name was called for the 5-minute blood draw. I asked, “Is it always like this?” 

“Sorry to say that’s a norm for hospital operation since they have a vast number of outpatient and inpatient services throughout the day with minimal staffing,” was the answer. 

It seems like Mission’s closure of the outpatient lab services at South Laguna has exacerbated the problem at the big facility. Promoting the use of the South Laguna services could provide better services for locals and other residents nearby and keep our hospital alive and thriving.  

After the first visit without pillows, I learned to always bring my jacket, which, folded up, makes a pillow substitute. I was happy. 

I found the staff at both facilities to be caring and professional, on top of what needed to be done. Thanks to them, I am on my way to better health. Thanks to the proximity of the South Laguna hospital I could be there in minutes and didn’t always need an ambulance. What a blessing! What reassurance to know they are there ready to serve and help at any time. One staff person said, “We could do so much more, if they would just let us.”

Our little community used to have its own library branch at Second and Coast Highway, Aliso Elementary School where Fred Lang Park is now, its own Village Market, Moore Hardware, and later Alpha Beta Market. The school and library were closed, and Gelson’s Market closed just this month. It failed, not because we don’t need a market, but because we need a reasonably priced market. Try a Stater Brothers, a Trader Joe’s, and a hardware store where Chase Bank used to be and see what happens. I predict a thriving business. Give us what we need again, and we’ll be there. 

If we keep taking stuff away, we will become a fake ghost of a community that has to go everywhere else to get what we need. 

Apparently, we need to fight to stay alive.

Ann is a landscape architect and was Laguna Beach’s mayor from 1993 to 1994. She is also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.

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