El Centro Regional Medical Center is shown in this undated photo. (Courtesy El Centro Regional Medical Center)

Why this matters

Imperial County has fewer than 300 hospital beds and longstanding community health challenges. Most people who receive care at the two hospitals in the region are Medi-Cal or Medicare patients.

Imperial County’s two hospitals will receive a combined $56 million in state loans under funding announced last week.

The El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley each were granted $28 million under the recently created Distressed Hospital Loan Program. That’s the third-largest amount granted Thursday, behind the $33.2 million awarded to the Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside and $29 million given to the Dameron Hospital in Stockton.

Both El Centro Regional and Pioneers applied for part of the $300 million in available funding as they grapple with financial struggles that are affecting many hospitals across the state. Of the program’s 30 applicants, just 17 were awarded loans.

“Today we have provided much needed assistance to community hospitals across the state that desperately need financial help to provide the care their communities need,” said Elizabeth Landsberg, director of the state Department of Health Care Access and Information, in a news release. The agency jointly administers the emergency loan program.

“I’m grateful to the Legislature for spearheading this effort to help make sure these vital healthcare institutions are fiscally stable so they can continue to provide quality, affordable health care for all Californians.”

As inewsource previously reported, El Centro Regional and Pioneers have been struggling with rising costs and declining revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic. State legislation has proposed creating a countywide health district to help address the financial troubles, though it’s been met with pushback at times from Pioneers officials. 

El Centro Regional, the county’s largest hospital, had initially sought a $40 million loan. Pioneers had applied for $35 million.

The zero-interest loans are repayable over 72 months, with an initial 18-month grace period at the beginning of the loan term. The state program sunsets Dec. 31, 2031.

“I’m excited and grateful that the Imperial Valley received a total of $56 million from the state’s Distressed Hospital Loan Program,” El Centro Regional board President Tomás Oliva told the Calexico Chronicle. “Both El Centro Regional Medical Center and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District stand to benefit from these loans, but mainly the patients both hospitals serve in the Imperial County.”

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Jennifer Bowman serves as inewsource's Assistant Editor. Before that, she was an investigative reporter focusing on government accountability issues in southern San Diego and Imperial counties. She also used to cover education. She’s happy to be back in her hometown after stints at daily newspapers...