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December 8, 2019
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An open letter to the Pajaro Valley Health Trust Board of Directors

To the PVCHT Trust Board of Directors:

We would like to begin by stating that as Watsonville City Council Members and as citizens of Watsonville, we were extremely concerned when we learned on June 6, 2019, of the intended sale of Watsonville Community Hospital (WCH) to yet another for-profit entity. Our concerns, like many other elected officials and community members, were even intensified because of the long history of our hospital under 21 years of outside, corporate and for-profit ownership by first Community Health Systems (CHS), and then their spin-off, Quorum Health Corporation (QHC). 

Despite these concerns, many of us were also hopeful because of the dedication and immediate efforts by the registered nurses at WCH to meet with important stakeholders and begin organizing a forum to inform and provide a space for the community to share their concerns. In fact, it was because of the nurses’ hard work to build a coalition of key stakeholders with longtime Physician, Dr. Joe Gallagher and Dori Rose Inda of Salud Para La ‘Gente, and then to further organize more than 330 Watsonville community members to attend a successful Town Hall this past Sunday that we felt there was a real chance that our hospital could once again be returned to the community it was meant to care for and serve. 

However, yesterday we learned along with the nurses and our community through reports from the Register-Pajaronian that the recent promises from Halsen Healthcare at the Town Hall and to reporters from KSBW the same day were, at best, incredibly disingenuous. Despite the fact that Halsen CEO, Dan Brothman, assured concerned Watsonville residents, city officials, nurses and other employees that his corporation only had our best interests in mind and that Halsen will never be “beholden to shareholders,” public reports surfaced through various business news outlets on Tuesday, July 16, announcing that the Halsen had already entered into an agreement to sell the hospital property to a multi-billion dollar Alabama firm, Medical Properties Trust, (MPT), who would then lease back the operations to Halsen as operators, thus enabling MPT to avoid numerous tax responsibilities to our city and county they would otherwise be inclined to pay as the sole owner-operators of WCH. This potential loss of revenue for our city appears to be a kind of bait and switch, and it is not one that any of us should stand for.

In light of these troubling facts, we are now writing as not only leaders, but as citizens of our community to call on the PVCHT to exercise its right of first refusal, and work with the nurses and their coalition, the community, and ourselves to bring WCH back into the hands of the community again. After weighing only the preliminary risks and available records from other communities associated with this type of real estate investment trust (REIT),  we firmly believe that the potentiality of loss to medical services, hard-fought rights of the hospital employees, our community members, and our constituents, urgently needed tax revenues to our city and county, and the real chance that could ultimately lead to the closure of WCH, are simply too high. Let’s ensure this is a real community hospital again, one run by we the people of Watsonville and not the high-paid executives of an out-of-state corporate firm and Wall Street.

Respectfully,  

Felipe Hernandez, Watsonville City Council, District 1

Aurelio Gonzalez, Watsonville City Council, District 2

Lowell Hurst, Watsonville City Council, District 3