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Imperial County Supervisors Will Ask Governor to Veto AB 918

-Editorial

By a vote of 3-1, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to veto AB 918 which intends to create a single medical district for the valley. County Supervisor Jesus Escobar was the only one that stated his support for the bill. 

“This is not about El Centro or Brawley, this is about the quality of care for the people in Imperial County,” Escobar said and mentioned that he will send a letter as District 1 Supervisor to the Governor supporting AB 918. 

The Board of Supervisors decided to take this action after the latest round of amendments made before it passed on the State Senate and sent to the Governor’s desk for approval or veto. The Pioneers Memorial Healthcare Board decided to send a letter to the governor asking it to veto.

Supervisors Ryan Kelley, John Hawk, and Luis Plancarte voted to not support AB 918. 

“A feasibility study has not been undertaken to ensure that a permanent funding source is identified to even support this healthcare district,” the letter from Pioneers Memorial read. “The new district will require a large infusion of cash to fund working capital, and the current revenue collected by Pioneers Memorial and Heffernan is not sufficient to cover the operating costs of the new healthcare district.” 

The California State Legislature passed Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s (D-Coachella) AB 918, establishing a united Imperial Valley Healthcare District. After months of stakeholder and community engagement, this vital healthcare protection measure will go to Governor Newsom for signature.

“Our medically underserved area cannot risk the loss of a hospital and disruptions to care. The closure of any hospital will overburden hospitals in surrounding cities and counties, resulting in a devastating cycle of inadequate healthcare across a wide geographical region. Imperial Valley is facing an urgent healthcare crisis; lives are on the line, and we need to act,” said Assemblymember Garcia.

“We dedicated our efforts to engaging local stakeholders and community members throughout this legislative process to ensure AB 918’s language reflects community direction and priorities.”

This legislation was introduced at the behest of Imperial Valley leaders who implored Assemblymember Garcia for aid to the imminent hospital crisis. Assemblymember Garcia engaged with regional stakeholders throughout the legislative process, and all amendments directly reflect this feedback.

“Changes made throughout this process demonstrate our diligent efforts to incorporate feedback on local priorities, ensure equitable representation, and safeguard accessibility to local health services,” shared Assemblymember Garcia. “Our efforts were dedicated to getting this right and securing additional avenues of financial relief and resources.”

Garcia’s office said that recent amendments to include board representation for the different cities and areas in the county resulted from suggestions made by Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District. These changes aim to increase inclusivity and bring underserved areas not currently served by a healthcare district to the table as this new regional system is established.

In August, Assemblymember Garcia announced his success in securing $28 million each for El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District in zero-interest loans from the Distressed Hospital Loan Program he helped create. These funds may be used to support the Imperial Valley Healthcare District.

However, Pioneers believes that under this amendment some cities in Imperial County would be taxed unfairly and would receive disproportionate representation on the newly established board. 

“Pioneers would like to the community to be involved and have a vote and say on how the healthcare district will be formed and who will represent it,” Pioneers said in a statement. 

Garcia responded that the initial start-up costs are minimal to nonexistent. Until both healthcare districts are dissolved, the only potential anticipated start-up costs would be the ones related to ensuring public meetings take place for the community to listen to the findings of the financial feasibility studies and provide public comments. The Imperial Valley Healthcare District board will determine when financial investments are necessary during the transition period. Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District agreed to serve in a temporary clerical role.

Amendments regarding the formation of the new district’s interim board were expanded to enhance equity and representation. This initial, interim board will serve temporarily, allowing time for board elections to be held. The inclusion of additional cities and areas in the county for this interim board resulted from suggestions made by locals throughout the legislative process. These changes aim to increase inclusivity and bring underserved areas not currently served by a healthcare district to the table, as well as tribal communities, as this new regional system is established.

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