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June 28, 2022

‘Dire’ deadline approaching for hospital purchase

Institution faces closure if fundraising goals not met

WATSONVILLE—The organization formed earlier this year to operate and oversee Watsonville Community Hospital is nearing its July 1 deadline to raise enough to make the purchase, but is still $16 million short.

If Pajaro Valley Healthcare District (PVHD) is unable to raise the funds, it could mean closing the hospital, further impacting the already poorly resourced South County, organizer Mimi Hall says.

The organization is now kicking into high gear with fundraising efforts, including turning to local organizations and the community.

To make the purchase, the organization needs to raise $63 million, says Hall, who formerly served as the Santa Cruz County Public Health Director. This includes paying off some existing debt, the purchase price and covering other costs.

The organization also needs to continue paying the $2.5 million monthly operations to run the hospital, Hall said, an amount that continues to accrue whether the purchase goes through or not.

“This is a dire situation,” she said. “It’s unthinkable for our community for this to happen. The impacts of losing this hospital as a resource are going to be far-reaching.”

PVHD is hoping for $20 million from the state, and that Gov. Gavin Newsom includes that amount when he releases his final budget in June. To help make that happen, PVHD is turning to local lawmakers, Hall says.

“We are relying on Senator (John) Laird and (Assemblymember Robert) Rivas to advocate heavily and work with their colleagues so that the version of the budget that the legislature passes includes this,” Hall said. 

If that money doesn’t come through, she says, it will mean PVHD will need $36 million.

Several organizations have already kicked in funds to help. This includes $6.5 million from Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust, $5.5 million from Santa Cruz County, $3 million from Monterey County, just over $1 million from Stanford Children’s Hospital and $300,000 from Dominican Hospital.

Driscoll’s Berry company has extended a $1.75 million match to May 31, with $509,000 still needed to meet that goal.

“We’re kind of turning over every stone, knowing we have such a short amount of time to get across the finish line,” Hall says. 

PVHD stepped up to make the purchase in 2021, after years of bungling by corporate owners.

On Feb. 4, Newsom signed Senate Bill 418, roughly three weeks after author Laird introduced it, officially creating the healthcare district. If the purchase is successful, the district would be run similar to a city council, with locally elected leaders that make decisions in public meetings

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