Urgent Community Town Hall to Address Concerns about Patient Care with Impending Sale of Watsonville Community Hospital
Registered nurses, doctors, community activists, and residents are holding a town hall Sunday, July 14 to share concerns about patient care and strategize on action as Watsonville Community Hospital is up for sale, announced the California Nurses Association today.
The newly formed for-profit, Halsen Healthcare, announced last month that it intends to purchase Watsonville Community Hospital. However, the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust has “right of first refusal” which allows the trust to purchase the hospital before the seller negotiates any other offers. The Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust was created as a result of the privatization of the public hospital and is dedicated to improving the quality of life and health for all residents of Pajaro Valley.
"The impending sale of our hospital gives us a unique opportunity to make a difference in our community, and to ensure that the needs of our patients come first,” said Roseann Farris, a registered nurse in the critical care unit. “But the window to act is very short and we need everyone to come out, speak out, and take action so we can get the medical services we need and deserve."
What: Urgent Community Town Hall on Impending Sale of Watsonville Community Hospital
When: Sunday July 14, 2019 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Community Room & the City Council Chambers
275 Main Street - Suite 400 - Watsonville, Calif
Mayor Francisco Estrada, Watsonville
DeAndre James, executive director, Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust
Dori Rose Inda, CEO, Salud Para La Gente
Dr. Joe Gallagher has been a physician at Watsonville Community Hospital since 1986, when the hospital was still run as a nonprofit hospital. Dr. Gallagher said when he came to the hospital, it was truly a community hospital where management put patient care and community service first.
“The sale of Watsonville Community hospital to Halsen Healthcare represents a significant threat to the future of Watsonville Community Hospital,” said Dr. Gallagher. “I fear that we will see further erosion in services which will leave this already vulnerable community without much needed medical care. As stated on its website, Halsen Healthcare says ‘providing above market return to our investors is a principal goal’ rather than community service.”
Nurses, doctors, and community members say history has taught them to be wary of for-profit hospital corporations. In 1998, Community Health Systems (CHS), a Tennessee-based for-profit hospital operator, bought Watsonville Community Hospital,promising to “maintain and expand services.” But just months after the sale went through, CHS announced layoffs. Over the next several years, CHS closed a number of critical units, including the oncology department. Medical providers note the closure of the oncology unit was particularly troubling in a community that is designated by the federal government as medically underserved and for a hospital that treats a large number of farmworkers who are known to have an elevated risk for numerous cancers.
“We know many in our communities are struggling to make ends meet, that 16 percent of Watsonville residents live in poverty, and many more live just above the poverty line,” said Dori Rose Inda, the CEO of Salud Para la Gente. “The effects of poverty are devastating on health, leading to increased infant mortality rates, more frequent and severe chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. We need a hospital that is committed to serving the community, to keeping its doors open, and will work to improve and expand services.”
A spin-off of CHS, Quorum Health Corporation, took over the hospital in 2016. This is the first time the hospital has been for sale since 1998.
Watsonville Mayor Francisco Estrada says the success of the hospital is imperative for the city, not only as a health care provider, but also as the largest property taxpayer and the third-largest employer in Watsonville.
“Watsonville Community Hospital is vital to the health of our city,” said Mayor Estrada. “We need to ensure it will grow as our city continues to grow, and that we can depend on it in the years and decades to come. The citizens of Watsonville must be the ones guiding the future of the hospital.”
CNA/NNU is the largest and fastest-growing all-RN professional organization and union in the nation, with a membership of 100,000 RNs in more than 200 facilities throughout California and more than 150,000 nurses nationwide.