Laguna’s hospital takes patient care to new levels as services have evolved over more than 60 years.
By Tanya A. Yacina
For most, access to quality health care at a local, community-based hospital is paramount, and Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach offers just that for this town’s residents and visitors. Since 1959, the hospital has served the local community, as well as surrounding areas, providing emergency services and other necessary operations, procedures and consultations.
“People want to be able to get comprehensive hospital-based services in a place that’s the most convenient and the closest to home,” says Seth Teigen, chief executive of Mission Hospital in both Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo. “There’s a perception in the community that the Laguna Beach hospital is only the [emergency room, or] ER department, when in reality, we offer so much more. We’re proud of our culture and are focused on compassionate care and treating the whole person.”
The hospital has gone through many changes in its years of existence, including changes in name and ownership, updated infrastructure and the addition of new services. While the COVID-19 pandemic has inhibited ancillary visits to the hospital to see what’s offered, it’s still important to know about the services that are available at the community’s fingertips. Some may be surprised to know the level of expertise and state-of-the-art medical technology just down the road.
More than 60 years ago, the Laguna Beach hospital was established after the death of Gordon French, a city police officer who was shot by a prisoner trying to escape from the police station. French died in transit to the nearest hospital in Newport Beach. The community noted the need for a more accessible treatment center within Laguna Beach to prevent this type of tragedy from reoccurring.
The Irvine Co. donated money to buy the 22-acre piece of land for the hospital, as the company didn’t own any property in the right location. Laguna Beach residents raised funds to construct the hospital. Even actress Bette Davis, who lived in Laguna for a time, donated $25,000 to the cause. In its first year of operation, South Coast Community Hospital—as it was then called—had 432 births and 1,234 emergency and surgical cases.
Over the past six decades, the hospital has continued to grow, eventually changing its name to South Coast Medical Center. Then run by Adventist Health, the facility faced possible closure in 2008 due to an operating deficit and the need for a $25 million seismic retrofit. To allow the hospital to continue serving the community, St. Joseph Health System purchased it in 2009; the nonprofit Catholic health care ministry was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. In 2016, St. Joseph Health and Providence partnered and used the combined name until announcing, in 2019, plans to rebrand simply as Providence. The local facility is now known as Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach. No matter the name, however, the approach and commitment to patients has remained the same.
“We follow what I like to call our ‘recipe,’ ” Teigen says, “and our recipe is the combination of quality, safety, patient experience and caregiver engagement. Caregiver engagement is the secret sauce in that recipe. The reason the campus has been able to weather the changes over the years is because of the people. The people who work here love this campus—they love coming through the doors each day and they love being able to take care of their community. Our heritage in our organization is special in that, for many of us, we love the idea that we are walking in the footsteps of the sisters of St. Joseph.”
Dr. Jason Liauw, a Laguna Beach resident and director of neurosurgery at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, adds that the hospital is “a gem that a lot of people don’t know about.”
“Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach has the same high-tech provisions as the larger hospitals, but its boutique atmosphere creates a warmth, friendliness and accessibility that is really special. It is a community hospital with a boutique feel,” Liauw says. “Not only is the hospital across the street from the beach, [but] many of the patient rooms have incredible ocean views and that certainly contributes to the well-being and recovery of our patients—[with] no extra charge for the beautiful views.
Liauw is proud to be part of the modernization of this community’s historical hospital. With an integrated medical staff, patients will receive the same exceptional service whether they go to the Laguna Beach or Mission Viejo campuses, he says.
The past decade has seen several significant investments at the Laguna Beach campus. More than $50 million of enhancements have been made, which include a $25 million seismic retrofit; $11 million water, electrical systems and physical plant upgrades; and expansion and enhancement of the of the emergency department, which was made possible by the donations of Sue and Bill Gross, as well as other Laguna Beach residents.
Notably, Laguna Beach has the latest technology for spinal navigation and robotic orthopedic systems, as well as superior imaging capabilities with new MRI and CAT scan equipment, Liauw notes.
The hospital offers a comprehensive range of medical specialties and subspecialties with an exceptional standard of care uncommon for a small community hospital. Teigen says the hospital group is steadfast in the commitment to take care of everyone, and it remains blind to method of payment.
“We’ve created a culture where our caregivers and physicians recognize they are in something bigger than themselves,” he says. “Our staff is proud to work here and many have for a long time.”
Among the hospital’s many types of services, the emergency department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and boasts one of the shortest wait times of any hospital in Orange County. Highly trained, board-certified emergency medicine physicians and caregivers offer top-quality emergency care to patients.
“The emergency department at Laguna Beach is exceptional,” Liauw says. “When my family needs emergency services, that’s where we go. The whole hospital has a boutique feeling about it that inspires people to continue to receive their care here. Providence has enhanced the campus and you can tell. For many people, their first interface with the hospital is through the emergency department during a critical time of need, but the more people learn about all our services, the more comfortable they become.”
The hospital is also certified as a paramedic receiving center, thus highly skilled clinicians and leading medical technologies are employed that allow safe transport of critical cases to Providence Mission Hospital Mission Viejo where they can receive advanced patient care.
Liauw also says the Laguna hospital is considered a top institution providing complete neuro-surgical care. “Our providers practice at both campuses to offer a comprehensive array of services,” Liauw says. “Whether you have surgery for spinal stenosis, herniated discs or any other neuro-spine issues, you’ll receive the same level of excellent care at our Laguna Beach campus or [in] Mission Viejo.”
The Laguna Beach facility also offers specialized chemical dependency and behavioral health care through acute inpatient treatment, partial hospitalizations and outpatient programs. Through the programs, patients are provided with tools needed to be successful on their path to recovery, including restorative and holistic therapies like acupuncture and massage.
A variety of orthopedic services are also offered at the Laguna Beach campus, including an advanced total joint replacement program utilizing the latest robotic technology and advanced surgical techniques to treat hips, shoulders and knees.
“The robo knee replacement system, called ROSA [which stands for Robotic Surgical Assistant], allows surgeons to get an exact implant size and placement for hips, knees and other joints,” Teigen explains. “This technology makes recovery quicker; patients have less pain and they have to spend less time in the hospital setting.”
The hospital’s state-of-the-art imaging center offers female patients a spectrum of services and resources to support them at every stage of life. The Women’s Wellness Center at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach provides digital mammography, breast MRIs, biopsies and ultrasounds. Mission Laguna also provides advanced treatments for gastroesophageal diseases and disorders through diagnosis, pain management and care for gastrointestinal disorders.
“Mission Hospital Laguna is truly a hidden gem, but people have started to realize the level of concierge patient service provided there,” Liauw says. “The facility speaks for itself: The emergency department is very accessible with newly renovated private rooms and the newest MRI and CAT imaging available. It is high-tech and it’s gorgeous. Plus, our radiology group oversees both our campuses so you know that images are being reviewed by highly skilled professionals.
“The surgical department at Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach is definitely a reflection of the expertise of [the] Mission Viejo campus, and offers an ease of scheduling, high efficiencies and old-school, personalized medical care.”
Photos by Providence Mission Hospital