Steven Salyer

Steven Salyer, who retained his position as CEO of Watsonville Community Hospital when it transferred from a for-profit company to the newly formed Pajaro Valley Healthcare District, on Sept. 1, 2022.

In record time, Watsonville Community Hospital went from the brink of closing within the last year to public ownership at 12:01am Thursday, Sept. 1. The closing would have had left over 100,000 people without a nearby hospital, including over 6,500 North Monterey County residents within the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District.

The race began after former for-profit owner Halsen Healthcare filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 6, 2021. Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, rushed Senate Bill 418 through the California Legislature in just 19 days, creating the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District, in order to create an agency that could purchase the hospital.

Since then the fledgling district with no staff and its community supporters have raised over $60 million to complete the purchase. Money came from the state, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, healthcare organizations and companies and donors from throughout the community. 

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors pledged $3 million back in February. The Central California Alliance for Health, which serves Medi-Cal patients in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, also pledged $3 million.

The Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors hired the hospital's existing CEO, Steven Salyer, to continue in the position. Salyer says all 650 employees were hired to work for the district.

"It's absolutely incredible when we think that we're now turning this organization back into the hands of the community," he says. "We went from being part of a large for-profit healthcare system to now you have local decision making, local reinvestment and local control."

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