WATSONVILLE – There is a new nonprofit in town, and its ultimate goal is to create a health care district that makes local ownership of the Watsonville Community Hospital possible.
Santa Cruz County, the City of Watsonville, the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente recently announced that they have partnered to form the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project. The project was formed with the common goal of advocating for community services in the Pajaro Valley region.
One way to ensure that the health care supply in the region is of high caliber is to seek the establishment of a health care district, also known as a hospital district. Through state legislation, Pajaro Valley could join California’s 73 existing health care districts.
“A health care district would allow a stronger local voice to meet the health care needs of the community. A district can provide and scale up essential community health services and is directly responsible at the community level. The founders of PVHDP share a deep commitment to the Watsonville Community Hospital and health services across the region, ”county spokesperson Jason Hoppin said in a statement.
Watsonville has been in a for-profit business for over 20 years. During this time, he faced a change in ownership, complaints of understaffing, and even protests from his own medical staff. The hospital, founded in 1895, is the primary treatment center in the South County.
“Over the past few decades, anyone who has run the hospital has had to think about how they make money. They can’t provide the services the community really needs or invest in population health or prevention, ”former health official Dr. Mimi Hall said this week.
Throughout this time, leaders of agencies such as Watsonville City Council have sought to support the patients and staff at the facility. More recently, the board unanimously passed a resolution to keep the hospital a hospital, not a business development – a fear that erupted when Prospect Medical Holdings replaced Halsen Healthcare amid non-payment of stakeholders with Halsen.
“We want the community to know that we support our hospital, we want to make sure that the new owners understand that we believe the hospital is vital to our community, to the health and safety of our residents and we want to make sure that the hospital remains in Watsonville, ”Mayor Jimmy Dutra said in March.
Bring everyone up
Hall, who has just resigned his post with the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, is leading the charge towards the local operation. Hall was on the board of directors of the Community Health Trust when Halsen Healthcare was heading towards the hospital purchase. At the time, the trust had the option of exercising its first right of refusal for 45 days. Unfortunately, the board of directors could not raise the necessary funds to propose an alternative.
“Since that time all of us, this energetic group of people who work in the health care community and care about South County, knew there could be an opportunity,” Hall said. “We kept it in mind, for sure. “
Although Hall started a new job with the California mega health information exchange Manifest MedEx before her impending retirement from public health, she remained with the project as a community volunteer to share her experience of working in small counties with health care districts. to Santa Cruz agencies. She calls it a labor of love.
“It was a revolving door for CEOs, like here. And you can’t build a foundation with cycling administrators, ”she said. “We can’t talk about the health of Santa Cruz County as a whole unless we make sure those with the greatest disparities are as well. “
Hoppin said the health care district project chairs met with the leadership of the Watsonville Community Hospital as an invitation to work together to review community ownership and governance. The Sentinel has reached out to the hospital’s newly appointed CEO, Steven Salyer, to get a response to the district’s announcement. Salyer, who at the time of his arrival said he had moved within county limits to truly be a local, declined an interview but offered a statement of approval.
“We share the goal of the PVHDP to ensure that our community continues to have access to vital health services. We support the initiative and we are working closely with the PVHDP on this project, ”he wrote.
The Santa Cruz County Oversight Board and Watsonville City Council will review evidence announcing support for the Pajaro Valley Health Care District project during their meetings on Tuesday.
The resolutions, if passed, call not only for the formal establishment of the district, but also for the appointment of city and county representatives to sit on the district council. The oversight board would also order its health services agency to return by December 7 at the latest with plans on how to ensure the hospital remains open and provides services especially for Medi-Cal, Medicare, and people. uninsured. Finally, county staff would report on the district’s progress in March.
With their blessing, the four agencies will get to work to plan and assess the resources needed to transition from a nonprofit to a health care district. Hall said the formation of the nonprofit formalized the group’s commitment to pursuing a community hospital in a way where accountability came first.
“If the district is formed, five people would be elected and it would be in their hands,” Hall said of the calculation of who will ultimately own and operate the Watsonville Community Hospital. “Our job is to preserve this asset so that community stewards take care of it. If we are successful at our job, people who are really smart will manage it.