watsonville community hospital
Watsonville Community Hospital. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

The Pajaronian has traditionally avoided endorsing candidates and most other issues during election cycles. Our reasoning is simple: a news outlet’s job, we believe, is to provide as much information as possible from all sides of issues and to let our readers make their own informed decisions. 

Occasionally, however, an issue comes along so critical to our community that we feel a need to step in and give it our wholehearted support.

This is the case for Measure N, which would raise $116 million for Watsonville Community Hospital. 

If the bond measure garners the required two-thirds majority in the March 5 election, it will add roughly $24 per $100,000 of assessed value on property tax bills for properties within the district.

The measure includes an independent citizens’ oversight committee, which will make sure the district spends the money as voters intend.

Pajaro Valley Health Care District—the five-member board that now runs the publicly-owned hospital—will use the money to refurbish and expand the emergency department, replace imaging equipment and complete a large list of repairs and upgrades.

More importantly, it will allow PVHCD to buy back the hospital building and grounds from the out-of-state agency that owns them. 

The history of for-profit hospitals is mixed. While there are good operators, some national companies have shown a disturbing tendency to ignore sound practices when cutting costs, and to close hospitals in lower income areas because they are less profitable than ones serving wealthy populations that can afford elective surgeries and discretionary procedures. There are good reasons why community members should opt for a community-based alternative to out-of-area, for-profit health care firms when one exists.

The former owner—Halsen Healthcare—sold hospital assets for $40 million, ostensibly to use the funds to run the hospital. But that company was ousted in 2021, and now faces a lawsuit alleging gross mismanagement, and that they took some of the money for themselves. 

This purchase will save the hospital $3 million in annual rent, which will go directly back into operation of this vital community resource.

Now locally-owned, the importance of Watsonville’s hospital cannot be overstated. In 2022, a total of 900 babies were delivered there, hospital officials say, and 32,000 people came through the emergency room, a number expected to soon climb by 3,000.

If the hospital were to close—a scenario that nearly occurred in 2021 until Pajaro Valley Health Care District Project stepped up to purchase it and return it to local control—it would not only mean the loss of a multifaceted medical facility.

It can even be, at times, a life-or-death issue. With the closest emergency room at Dominican Hospital 20 minutes or more away—without traffic—patients needing emergency medical treatment would be put at further risk making the trip when seconds count.

The loss would also be an added burden on neighboring medical facilities as even more patients pack their emergency departments.                                                                                          

Without the measure, the hospital will continue to struggle financially, be unable to make the upgrades it needs and continue to spend millions of dollars to rent its building and the property on which it sits.

A vote for Measure N is a sound outlay for the future of the community, and for this vital resource. We support this initiative for the community to take control of its own health care with an investment in the wellness of the district’s residents.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Senior citizen Tax payers cannot afford the added cost of this hospital. All of Santa Cruz county does not have a trauma center. Why is it that Watsonville Hospital continues to fail?
    I will do everything possible to defeat this measure we cannot afford it

    John S
    Watsonville

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    • I also am a senior citizen taxpayer, and I will totally support this measure. We need to have a great local hospital and the tax is not much compared to the loss of a good working hospital in our town. Driving to Santa Cruz for an emergency where your life is at stake is not something I’d want to do. My brother almost lost his life due to driving to Dominican hospital for a heart issue and also caught Covid in their hospital. I’d rather pay this small extra tax on my property taxes and see all the upgrades to our own local hospital than suffer the consequences of being forced to drive 20 miles or more for hospital care.

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    • I had to go to Watsonville Hospital last night due to agonizing pain in my back and groin area. I couldn’t walk so my son got me a wheelchair. I waited 3 hours for a doctor, while seeing all the patients who were there before me be seen and then after another group arrived, they also were seen, while I waited in extreme pain in the very cold waiting room. I finally told my son, take me home, I can’t wait any longer. The hospital called my son at home, 15 minutes later and told him they have a room for me. I told them forget it. HORRIBLE BAD SERVICE AT WATSONVILLE HOSPITAL. They took my blood pressure while I was there waiting and it was 200/100, They just didn’t care about the pain I was in. I guess moaning for 3 hours and crying with the pain means nothing to the hospital. I’m going to vote NO on this tax increase. Why throw money at a hospital that has bad service.

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      • I’d like to know how many residents of Aptos visit Watsonville Community. Most neighbors I know drive to Dominican. I support a second hospital, however charging Aptos residents more based on home value doesn’t seem fair if they don’t even use Watsonville Community. We already have high mortgages, now we may end up being punished for paying more for our homes. If there is a fairer way to structure the taxes, I would support it.

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  2. Senior citizen Tax payers cannot afford the added cost of this hospital. All of Santa Cruz county does not have a trauma center. Why is it that Watsonville Hospital continues to fail?
    I will do everything possible to defeat this measure because as seniors we cannot afford it

    John S
    Watsonville

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    • We can and we will vote Yes on this measure. We want a great functioning hospital with all the modern services that can save lives. I totally support upgrading our local hospital, so we don’t have to risk our lives driving to another hospital for help.

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  3. PA seeing is believing I hope you are right. For me, I had to be shipped to Natividad a drive of many miles being bagged all the way because I was intubated. If we are to pay for this hospital it should be a level 1 trauma center. Think of all the people who die going over the hill in helicopters or to Salinas not to mention the cost of these trips insurance does not cover.
    They promise a great hospital with taxpayer money. Seeing is believing I don’t have much faith
    For the most part I am hopeful👍

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