WATSONVILLE: Residents Debate Sale Of Community Hospital
"More than 100 Watsonville residents voiced their concerns at a recent public forum on the proposed acquisition of Watsonville Community Hospital by Community Health Systems, Inc.," the San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal reports. The hospital held the meeting in anticipation of another community forum that is expected to be part of state Attorney General Dan Lungren's (R) approval process for the sale. According to the hospital's community liaison, Sharon Green, the tone of the meeting was one of "concern" about the sale. "She said residents questioned whether Community Health would maintain the hospital's commitment to Watsonville's poor and Latino populations," the Business Journal reports. However, she said the "influx of capital" resulting from the sale "would let the hospital offer a broader range of services while retaining local control." Local residents also expressed concern about any layoffs resulting from the sale. Among those groups with the most concerns was Healthcare Workers Local 250, "which is negotiating a new contract with Watsonville hospital." Union spokesperson Maya Shone said, "We don't know Community Health Systems, and we don't have a signed agreement that they'll recognize the union. We just want to make sure they'll maintain (patient) services."
The hospital decided to look for a buyer about a year ago, and "has been negotiating with Tennessee-based Community Health Systems," which owns one other hospital in the state, for "several months." While hospital officials said they "had hoped to complete the transaction by March 31," an application for approval of the sale has not yet been submitted to Lungren. According to Watsonville Hospital's Green, an application is not expected to be submitted "for the next couple of weeks" (Delevett, 3/16 issue).