.Bill Establishing Pajaro Valley Health District Heads to Governor’s Desk

Senate Bill 418, authored by State Senator John Laird, was unanimously approved on the Senate floor in a 34-0 vote Thursday, paving the way for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill into law and establish a health care district for the Pajaro Valley.

The Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project (PVHDP), a nonprofit created by the County of Santa Cruz, the City of Watsonville, the Community Health Trust of the Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente, would then be in line to accomplish its sole purpose of purchasing Watsonville Community Hospital operations and returning it to public ownership.

“The approval of SB 418 will ensure residents of the Pajaro Valley have access to services and will protect the jobs of those who work tirelessly to keep Pajaro Valley residents and their loved ones healthy,” Laird said in a press release. “I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 418 to ensure no person, parent, or child is left without access to care.”

Following two decades of ownership changes, Watsonville Community Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December. Currently, the hospital remains open and offers a full range of medical services. 

The hospital serves an area with disproportionately low household income and access to quality housing, transportation and healthcare, according to the California Healthy Places Index. Around 43% of the hospital’s gross revenue comes from the state Medi-Cal program, and 30% of its gross revenue comes from the federal Medicare program serving the elderly and disabled.

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“Given the hospital’s bankruptcy status, this legislation is the only pathway to preserving access to health care, creating accountability and addressing glaring health disparities for the people of the Pajaro Valley,” PVHDP board member Mimi Hall said in a press release. “We are grateful to our entire delegation for the urgent and focused attention they brought to this matter, and we look forward to seeing this bill become law in the not-too-distant future.” 

If approved by Gov. Newsom, SB418 will take effect immediately. The bill also received unanimous approval from the State Assembly, and several agencies have committed millions of dollars to purchase the hospital’s operations.

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