WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Community Hospital will soon have a new owner, but it is not yet clear whom that will be.
Los Angeles-based Halsen Healthcare is a one-year-old organization formed to make the purchase, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Brothman confirmed Friday.
According to Brothman, the purchase will be completed on or before Aug. 1, which will make it the company’s only hospital.
He said the company wants to run the hospital with a focus on its small community roots. This could come as a relief to Watsonville residents, many of whom have expressed concern about the hospital’s previous owner, Tennessee-based Quorum Health Corporation, which has owned the hospital since 2016. That company has been criticized as a large corporate entity out of touch with Watsonville’s needs.
“We believe in working closely with the community, and we’re answerable to the community, not to shareholders,” Brothman said.
Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust Executive Director DeAndre James said that organization has the "right of first refusal," and as such can purchase WCH before the seller negotiates any other offers.
The Health Trust has 45 days upon receiving notice to accept or reject the right of first refusal, James said.
The Health Trust is asking the community to give its input about the impending sale.
“We will operate openly with input from the community we serve,” James stated in a press release “We will also maintain a clear, fair decision-making process. Our decisions will be transparent and consistent with policy and demonstrated health needs. It will also ensure that the decision-making process is protected from undue influence from parties with self-interest.”
James said the Health Trust is “taking the necessary steps to ensure the community has continued access to the quality health care it needs and deserves.”
“Our intentions are to safeguard these services for the foreseeable future by confirming that parties who have expressed legitimate interest in ownership uphold this mission to provide the highest health standards available and the resources to support the community,” he said.
Halsen Healthcare is made up of three partners who have a combined 90 years of experience running acute care facilities, Brothman said.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be the owner of a hospital than Watsonville,” Brothman said. “There is something about the community we really like.”
It is not clear why Quorum Health Corporation made the sale.
Corporation representatives did not return a call seeking comment.
In a June 7 press release, Quorum Health Corporation said that divesting the 106-bed hospital will net the corporation approximately $35 to $40 million. These proceeds will be used to repay outstanding principal on the loan it used to purchase the hospital.
Brothman said that Halsen believes in the importance of community clinics, and in programs such as Medi-Cal and Federally Qualified Health Centers, which help low-income families access health care.
He praised the Watsonville community
“We love the community, we love the people the hospital serves,” Brothman said. “We will preserve those relationships.”
In preparing to take over the hospital, Brothman said that he has already spoken with many of the hospital’s employees, telling them they will have comparable benefits as they had with the previous company. He also said that long-time employees will get credit for their seniority.
“We hope to add things, not take them away,” he said.
Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker said the City’s goal is to “insure that this important resource is preserved.”
“Watsonville Community hospital has filled a critical need in meeting the health care needs of our community for decades,” Huffaker said. “We will be working closely with the Health Trust to learn more about what the buyer’s intentions are for the future of the hospital.”
To express comments, questions, or concerns to the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust at 85 Nielson Street in Watsonville, call 761.5639 or email [email protected]
For information, visit www.pvhealthtrust.org.