With $25 million in public funding, purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital becomes more likely

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The California Legislature is just steps away from providing $25 million to the purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital.

If finalized, it would mean a total of about $49 million has been raised for the Pajaro Valley Health Care District project to purchase the hospital, according to Jason Hoppin, communications manager for the Santa Cruz County and spokesperson for the project. The $25 million allocation has passed through the Assembly and Senate budget committees and is heading for a final vote on Wednesday. It will then require the approval of Governor Gavin Newsom, which is awaited.

“The $25 million is $5 million more than we had expected, even under the most optimistic scenario,” Hoppin told Lookout on Tuesday. “So it’s incredibly good for us.”

The project, a coalition of local nonprofits and government agencies, will still need more than $12 million to complete the purchase. In total, the sizable number is around $63 million, the amount a bankruptcy court told local organizers they needed to raise by August 31 to complete the purchase of what was a hospital. private and place it under local non-profit ownership and management. Hoppin warned that while those behind the effort are excited, several steps still need to be taken, including the final vote by the legislature and a governor’s signature.

“But it’s great to see this language in print,” he added. “Because it brings us closer to achieving our ultimate goal of acquiring the hospital on behalf of the people of the Pajaro Valley.”

He said the project is currently in discussions with donors – some who have already donated – to fill the remaining gap. If ongoing talks result in deals, up to $9 million could be raised, bringing the project down to less than $5 million from target.

These figures are not exact. For example, Hoppin said, the project raised $1.4 million for post-acquisition use, so its total fundraising includes money that can’t be included to meet the purchase price. of $63 million.

“Even though that [state] the money had to come, we are still not at the finish line,” he said. “So we always need donations from the community; there is always a fundraising effort going on. We talk daily with potential donors.

The Pajaro Valley Health Care District Project formed in 2021 with the goal of purchasing the hospital. The members of the project are the leaders of each of the entities that make up the group, including the county of Santa Cruz, the city of Watsonville, Salud Para La Gente and the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley.

If the project completes the purchase, the board that will manage the Watsonville Community Hospital will be the Pajaro Health Care District.

Tony Nuñez, member of the Pajaro Valley Health Care District board, celebrated the news Tuesday morning by thanking State Senator John Laird and Assemblyman Robert Rivas for their efforts to secure the funding. Nuñez is also the editor of The Pajaronian newspaper.

“A HUGE thank you to @SenJohnLaird and @AsmRobertRivas for securing $25 million from the state budget to help us save Watsonville Community Hospital,” he said Tuesday via Twitter. “Your work for the people of the Pajaro Valley is much appreciated.”

Monterey County Council Supervisor Luis Alejo also thanked lawmakers.

“The California Legislature included $25 million to save Watsonville Community Hospital in Jrs Budget Bill AB/SB178,” he said via Twitter. “The Senate and Assembly Budget Committees approved them today! May get the final vote as early as Wednesday night or soon after! Good job @SenJohnLaird & @AsmRobertRivas!”

Hoppin cited California’s unprecedented surplus more than 90 billion dollars this year as making the state contribution much more possible.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity with the surplus that the state is seeing,” he said. “If it was next year, it might not have happened at all.”

Laird’s chief of staff, Richard Stapler, said the senator was delighted with this step in the hospital’s future.

“I know he’s looking forward to meaningfully engaging with local entities to fill the final funding gap of a few million dollars,” Stapler said via email.

For more information, visit the health district project website.

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