Pajaro Valley Health Care District needs solid, continued leadership of Pimentel and Nájera

Jasmine Nájera (left) and Marcus Pimentel, candidates for the Pajaro Valley Health Care District board.

The fledgling Pajaro Valley Health Care District — cobbled together to protect the bankrupt Watsonville Community Hospital from closing — still has a momentous task ahead to reach stability for our community and its staff. A group of 10 well-respected public service professionals argue for the election of two current health care board representatives. Marcus Pimentel and Jasmine Nájera, both appointed by the board of supervisors to the jobs last year, are pivotal to the district’s future success, they write.

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We need Marcus Pimentel and Jasmine Nájera as board members of the Pajaro Valley Health Care District (PVHCD) to continue the success of Watsonville Community Hospital (WCH) under community-led ownership.

They’ve been in the trenches with the leadership of WCH throughout the process of securing the hospital’s future. We believe their continued leadership is essential and that they must be reelected to the health care district board to ensure successful long-term sustainability of the hospital.

Nájera, a Watsonville resident, is a licensed clinical social worker with 20 years’ experience working for the Santa Cruz County Health Services in behavioral health and now leads the Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance (PVPSA).

Born at Watsonville Community Hospital, Pimentel currently serves as budget manager for Santa Cruz County. He formerly worked as finance director with the cities of Watsonville and Santa Cruz, and as assistant health director for the County of Santa Cruz. He served for nine years as chair of Salud Para La Gente’s board of directors and stewarded it through a financial and administrative turnaround.

Pimentel and Nájera’s commitment to our community and region has been demonstrated through years of service and time and again through extraordinary volunteerism, most recently to save the hospital, but also to countless other local efforts and nonprofits. They set an ongoing example of commitment through hard work and truly listening to and engaging with the community.

The members of the current health care district board were appointed by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors because of their areas of expertise, experience and the communities they represent. Nájera and Pimentel’s professional experience, knowledge of the community and goodwill were pivotal to the initial success of the health care district board. Committed to the ideal that the hospital should remain in service for years to come, they spent innumerable hours studying the hospital, its programs and the turnaround plan to help ensure its future. Their efforts resulted in the hospital remaining open, emerging from bankruptcy and transitioning back to community ownership. It is critical to reelect them to the PVHCD board to continue momentum and not disrupt Watsonville Community Hospital’s early success under community ownership.

If we had lost the hospital’s critical services, it would have severely affected emergency services, our regional health care provider network, hundreds of staff members and the Pajaro Valley community. Without a hospital in this community, those with the least resources who face the most barriers to care would experience the most damaging impacts to their health. The long-term viability of the Watsonville Community Hospital is a key component in addressing the health disparities in underserved parts of Santa Cruz County.

For all the hard work that Nájera and Pimentel have put into the acquisition of WCH, we believe they have not only earned another term on the PVHCD board, but are the best candidates. We are excited for the promise a second term would mean for WCH and our community with Nájera and Pimentel continuing on the board.

Let’s keep a winning course with this forward-thinking health care district board.

Ray Cancino, Community Bridges
Leslie Conner, Santa Cruz Community Health
Maria Elena De La Garza, Community Action Board
Thomas Greaney, author and law professor
Kayla Kumar, Diversity Center of Santa Cruz
Laura Marcus, Dientes
Henry Martin, Watsonville Law Center
Monica Martinez, Encompass
Dori Rose Inda, Salud Para La Gente, Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project
Faris Sabbah, Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools
Blaine Sutliff, Salud Para La Gente

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