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Imperial County Supervisor Calls for Unity in Formation of Healthcare District

-Editorial

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors is asking the local health authorities to communicate and unite under a single healthcare district since there is still division when it comes to a recently passed law that created a single healthcare district. 

Supervisor District 3 Michael Kelley spoke about the LAFCO meeting held on Nov. 16 where the expansion of the Pioneers Hospital District was discussed. Kelley said they asked Pioneers to meet with El Centro Regional Medical Center and Heffernan Memorial to solve this valley healthcare proposal that is very important for residents. 

“I’ve never seen so much chaos between two agencies not wanting to come together to have healthcare for years to come for the residents of Imperial County,” Kelley said. “We need to work for the community with passion and compassion and not with ego, power, or what we want for ourselves.”

On Jan. 24, 2023, the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District applied to expand their district to encompass the entire County of Imperial or a substantial portion and to include a new governance structure. It should be noted that while this procedure started on Feb. 2nd, LAFCO had already resolved several issues because legislation introduced in the form of AB 918 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia created issues. Among them if the introduction of this bill would stop the application by Pioneers. 

Ultimately, staff determined that the application by PMHD was an expansion of their district and AB 918 was the establishment of an entirely new district; the two actions were not dependent on each other. It was unknown at the time if AB 918 was going to pass. 

The application would also find the need of a new tax is necessary to make sure the expanded district has adequate resources to operate and acquire El Centro Regional Medical Center from the city of El Centro should agree to mutually accept terms for the transfer of debt and assets from ECRMC and Pioneers Memorial District. Nothing within this condition ECRMC to transfer its assets should be voluntary. 

The idea of a single medical district has been proposed in the past but has failed for one reason or another. 

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) released a statement in opposition to Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District’s (Pioneers) LAFCO expansion application and the significantly high tax increase they’d like to place on the March ballot:

“Signing AB 918 into law already created a countywide healthcare district. There is no longer a need to expand Pioneers as the legislation has achieved its purpose of establishing a united county health system. At that point, Pioneers and LAFCO should have withdrawn their expansion application. Proceeding with these duplicative proceedings conflicts with the new state law at a great expense to our community and causes much confusion. Pioneers’ LAFCO application is unnecessary — wasting time, energy, and taxpayer resources while opening up legal complexities. Most alarming is the high tax burden Pioneers’ proposal wants to place on residents. We are extremely concerned about their intention to place such a significant tax increase on the March ballot without any community input or education process. Our legislation, AB 918, was completed over a year-long public process that prioritized community and stakeholder engagement. AB 918 was carried at the behest of locals who reached a consensus on the need for an integrated countywide healthcare district, and language was crafted to directly reflect community input. The legislature’s policy committees thoroughly reviewed the legislation and received overwhelming support across the county. Our work also delivered $56 million in zero-interest distressed hospital relief loans from the state to support El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital.”

The cities of Calexico and El Centro passed resolutions against the Pioneers’ expansion.

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