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March 19, 2023

Watsonville Community Hospital leaders establish fundraising arm

WATSONVILLE—After purchasing Watsonville Community Hospital last year, and beginning operations on Sept. 1, the people who run the institution are now looking for ways to keep it funded. 

The Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project (PVHDP)—a group of nonprofit leaders and healthcare professionals that in 2021 banded together to purchase the financially struggling hospital—has become its nonprofit fundraising arm, said the group’s Executive Director June Ponce.

The Board and Ponce will now focus on reorganizing PVHDP as a charitable foundation to support the operation of the hospital. The Board will also decide on a new name at a future meeting.

While the board will eventually consist of about 15 members, the first five were selected for their expertise in health care and fundraising, Ponce said. 

The board members were selected by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, the City of Watsonville, Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente.

When the former owners of WCH filed for bankruptcy in December 2021, they said that the hospital would close without a buyer.

PVHDP came forward and raised more than $66 million from state and local governments, local businesses, insurance companies, community organizations and private individuals to acquire the hospital and transfer ownership to the District.

“When PVHDP was established, the founding board members shared an unwavering commitment to acquire Watsonville Community Hospital and return it to community-led ownership, which became a reality last September,” said Mimi Hall, Board Chair of PVHDP. “We remain grateful to everyone who partnered with us to acquire the hospital. WCH is now on a path to long-term financial stability which means patients will continue to receive the vital quality healthcare services they deserve. We look forward to PVHDP’s new affiliation with the District.”

At the time of its acquisition, organizers said that the new leadership by the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District—an elected board of directors—would bring local control back to the community after decades of corporate mismanagement.

“We are grateful to PVHDP’s founders for all they did for WCH and are tremendously excited that PVHDP agreed to become the District’s new charitable foundation,” said Steven Salyer, President and CEO of the District and Watsonville Community Hospital. “Our community has already demonstrated its deep commitment to health care in this region. WCH is now owned by our community. We know that there is significant interest in making the hospital successful and the foundation will help make this happen.”


The new board directors:

• Jennifer Dacquisto, Bank of America President and Market Executive for Monterey Bay Market

• Janet Heien, former Director of Human Resources for Driscoll’s (retired)

• Brent Dunton, Vice President and Business Banking Officer at Santa Cruz County Bank

• Steven Salyer, Watsonville Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer

• Irene Chavez, Senior Vice President and Area Manager for San Jose/Santa Cruz Kaiser Health Plan


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