SANTA CLARITA – Heeding activists’ calls to find alternatives should Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital close its transitional-care unit, the city has created an ad hoc task force to explore viable options. In September, Roger Seaver, Newhall Memorial’s president, expects to recommend converting the hospital’s 27 transitional-care beds to acute-care beds. The change could take place toward the end of 2007 at the earliest, he said via e-mail. “The committee is going to make sure we have done everything we can to have quality and a continuum of care in this valley the TCU has provided,” Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste said. The 27-bed transitional-care unit provides skilled nursing care, often to elderly patients, who no longer need acute care but are not ready to return home. Two years ago, the hospital converted 29 of the unit’s 56 beds to acute care – inpatient surgery, observation and intensive care – and in April, hospital officials said converting the remaining beds might better serve the community’s future acute-care needs. “We’re hoping the City Council does not approve the hospital expansion plan without including a transitional-care unit or until we have some type of alternative up here,” said Robin Clough, co-chairwoman of the Committee Against Closing the TCU and director of recreation and volunteers at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. Protesters have staged at least four rallies opposing the unit’s closure. [email protected] (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los AngelesTask force members are expected to include car-dealership owners and philanthropists Don and Cheri Fleming; Seaver; Brad Berens, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging; Judy Freed; publisher Richard Budman; Mayor Laurene Weste; Councilman Bob Kellar; and City Manager Ken Pulskamp. Others will be invited to join the group. Berens said it could be cost-prohibitive to build a new skilled-nursing facility in the Santa Clarita Valley, so it behooves the group to begin talking with operators of existing facilities – preferably nonprofit organizations – and evaluating locations that could be outfitted to provide suitable care. Dr. Gene Dorio, who has a private geriatric private practice, lobbied to keep the unit open, but has not been asked to join the task force. “It’s the best thing that could happen to the seniors should they lose the transitional-care unit – that the City Council is looking for a viable alternative,” he said. Over the next five years, Newhall Memorial plans to convert or add 50 acute-care rooms, its $13.6 million emergency-room expansion is under way and a master plan is under review. The Santa Clarita City Council does not oversee hospital operations but its members vote on development plans and some hope that weight can be leveraged to help patients caught in the middle.