Nurses demand California hospital remain open

Nurses who work at a California hospital that is slated to be closed without a sale are demanding that the facility stay open, the unions that represent them said Dec. 1. 

California Nurses Association and National Nurses United  will hold a news conference on Dec. 3 to voice their demands. The union action comes after Watsonville (Calif.) Community Hospital said this week it will be forced to shut down if it is not able to secure a buyer by Jan. 28. The hospital said that if a sale occurs, it would likely be completed through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy court process.

The community hospital said it is facing significant financial challenges, which were exacerbated by the loss of revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The potential closure, which would result in permanent layoffs, was announced in a letter sent to employees Nov. 29. 

"Like many healthcare providers, WCH was forced to borrow millions of dollars to fund its operating losses," hospital CEO Steven Salyer stated in the letter. "As a standalone community hospital, WCH was not able to absorb or avoid these losses."

To avoid closure, the hospital is seeking a buyer, and the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project has emerged as a potential bidder. The group is made up of the county of Santa Cruz, the city of Watsonville, Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente and was formed to explore the purchase of the hospital.

"Watsonville used to be a wonderful place to work, where patients were at the center of our shared mission,” said Roseann Farris, RN, who works in the critical care unit. "This news comes as no surprise to the nurses, as we have continued to sound the alarm on the deteriorating conditions after we were sold to an out-of-state, for-profit corporation. Nurses are taking a stand and demanding Prospect and MPT stop putting profits over the lives and safety of our patients and community, and keep Watsonville Community Hospital Open."

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