As Imperial Valley residents await what will be the future of the two hospitals going forward, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors asked the three major medical districts to work together and set aside their differences.
The Board of Supervisors met on May 2nd to hear a presentation by El Centro Regional Medical Center CEO Pablo Velez which lead to another discussion about legislation that would create a single medical district for the entire Imperial County.
Assembly Bill 918, introduced by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), was amended on May 1st at the State Assembly.
This bill would rename the Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District as the Imperial Valley Healthcare District. The bill would authorize the expansion of the district to include all of the County of Imperial.
The bill would require the district to submit a resolution of application to the Imperial County Local Agency Formation Commission to initiate proceedings to expand the district. The bill would require the commission to order the expansion of the district subject to a vote of the registered voters residing within the territory to be annexed at an election following the completion of those proceedings.
The bill would require the Board of Supervisors of the County of Imperial, upon direction by the commission, to place approval of district expansion on the ballot at the next countywide election following the completion of commission proceedings, including a public hearing.
The bill, following expansion, would dissolve the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District and would transfer the assets, rights, and responsibilities of that district to the Imperial Valley Healthcare District. The bill would require the board of directors of the Imperial Valley Healthcare District, following expansion, to adopt a resolution to increase the number of members of the district’s board of directors from 5 to 7 and to appoint 2 members who are residents of the territory annexed by the district to fill the vacant positions, as specified. Following the expansion of the board of directors, the bill would require the board of directors to adopt a resolution to divide the Imperial Valley Healthcare District into voting districts to elect members of the board of directors from and by the electors of those voting districts beginning with the next district election, as specified. By imposing new duties on the County of Imperial, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Daniela Flores, Executive Organizer for Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition said there needs to be more transparency about the negotiations that are taking place.
“It’s very important that we ensure accountability so that our healthcare system is expanded to be comprehensive of reproductive rights, substance abuse treatment, and care across all areas like Calexico, the north end, and the areas that don’t have service,” Flores said.
Calexico Mayor Raul Ureña said that this legislation needs to take into account the limited medical services the city has.
“We still have a long way to go with AB 918 but if you are going to take more away more Calexico representation by taking away Heffernan and merging it with Pioneers which has limited services makes me very concern,” Urena said.
Councilman Tomas Oliva clarified
that the debt of $150 million ECRMC has was due to a bond that was used to retrofit the hospital building. He spoke at the meeting to clarify the concerns raised by Pioneers last week saying that they will oppose the legislation if they had to absorb ECRMC’s debt if the merger went through.
“It was not frivolous spending, it was an investment for the infrastructure of the hospital just like if the city of El Centro was taking a bond to build a new library or a fire station,” Oliva said.
To end this discussion, Supervisor District 1 Jesus Eduardo Escobar was blunt and asked Pioneers, ECRMC, and Heffernan Memorial to work together.
“95% percent of our population doesn’t give a shit who owns what. When they call 911 and expect the ambulance to be there and get medical attention. I ask for the three of you to work together for the people of Imperial County and those that cross the border that affects Calexico. We need to solve the problem and we need to solve it now,” Escobar stated.