PRESS RELEASE: Bill to Protect Health Care Access for Pajaro Valley Residents Passes the State Senate and Heads to Governor Newsom

For Immediate Release

Contact: Richard Stapler,

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Bill 418, authored by State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) was approved by members of the State Senate with a bipartisan floor vote of 34 – 0.  SB 418 will preserve access to healthcare service for Pajaro Valley residents by forming a healthcare district and allowing the return to public ownership of Watsonville Community Hospital.

“The approval of SB 418 will ensure residents of the Pajaro Valley have access to services and will protect the jobs of those who work tirelessly to keep Pajaro Valley residents and their loved ones healthy,” emphasized Laird. “I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 418 to ensure no person, parent, or child is left without access to care.”

Following two decades of ownership changes, Watsonville Community Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December. The County of Santa Cruz, the City of Watsonville, the Community Health Trust of the Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente formed the Pajaro Valley Health District Project, a non-profit whose goal is to facilitate a sale through the bankruptcy process and avoid any closure of the hospital. Currently, the hospital remains open and offers a full range of medical services. The hospital serves an area with disproportionately low household income and access to quality housing, transportation and healthcare, according to the California Healthy Places Index. Forty-three percent of the hospital’s gross revenue comes from the state Medi-Cal program, and 30 percent of its gross revenue comes from the federal Medicare program serving the elderly and disabled.

Board member of Pajaro Valley Healthcare District, Mimi Hall shared, “Given the hospital’s bankruptcy status, this legislation is the only pathway to preserving access to health care, creating accountability and addressing glaring health disparities for the people of the Pajaro Valley. We are grateful to our entire delegation for the urgent and focused attention they brought to this matter, and we look forward to seeing this bill become law in the not-too-distant future.”

“I thank our regional leaders who remain active partners in this effort to protect and expand health care access for the residents of Pajaro Valley and surrounding communities,” said Laird. “The passage of SB 418 reflects progress toward resolution on this critical issue and a pathway forward for Watsonville Community Hospital.”

If approved by Governor Newsom Senate Bill 418 will take effect immediately.


Senator John Laird represents the 17th State Senate District, which includes all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, the majority of Monterey County, as well as parts of Santa Clara County. He previously served as the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board, a member of the State Assembly, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Aids Project, and two terms as Santa Cruz Mayor. His lifetime of public service and social justice advocacy saw him become one of the first openly gay mayors to serve in the United States. Senator Laird has been a long-time resident of Santa Cruz with his spouse John Flores.