Cambrian: Opinion

Cambria Community Healthcare District’s 69-year evolution detailed

Cambria Community Healthcare District provides ambulance transport among its services.
Cambria Community Healthcare District provides ambulance transport among its services.

California’s health care and hospital districts were created by law in 1946 by policy makers and community leaders to address specific health needs, especially the need for hospitals, physicians and medical resources in rural communities. The law allowed for the formation of independent districts that could access dedicated, controlled funds to meet specific health needs.

There are currently 85 health care districts in California. A majority of the districts manage public hospitals or rural health care facilities filling gaps in local services by offering services including dental care, substance abuse programs, ambulance services, long-term care assistance and community health education services.

The Cambria Community Hospital District was established and the boundaries defined in November 1947 by a majority vote of the residents of the district. The boundaries of the district cover an area north to the Monterey County line, south to Villa Creek, west to the Pacific Ocean and east to what would become the top of Highway 46, where they currently remain.

In 1948, the first Cambria medical offices were leased by the district and rented to a physician. Between 1957 and 1958, the district purchased two lots for $3,500 and on land donated by the Soto family completed the building of the “clinic” on Main Street. The district also began purchasing medical equipment to be used by the physicians. In 1963 and 1967, additional office space was added to the Main Street building to accommodate additional physicians and a dentist. In 1973, office space was leased to a second physician, who practiced until retirement in 1987.

In 1994, the California Health and Safety Code which regulates hospital districts was amended changing hospital districts to health care districts since more than half of the 85 hospital districts had not been able to establish hospitals. The renaming of the Cambria Community Healthcare District resulted.

In 2005, the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast leased space in the Main Street clinic location, along with Limberg Eye. Today, the entire clinic space is leased to the Community Health Centers which provides a wide range of medical services to the residents of the district.

In 1951, at the request of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, the Cambria Community Hospital District took over the operation of the volunteer ambulance service. Operation of an ambulance service is an activity supported by the Health and Safety Code, especially in rural areas with long distances to emergency medical care. In 1951, transport to a hospital such as Sierra Vista was a much more difficult experience that what is encountered today.

During the years between 1951 and 2016, while continuing to provide clinic and physician services, the health care district developed an emergency response team, including personnel and state-of-the-art emergency ambulances and equipment serving the entire district and into Monterey County. Two emergency response teams are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as was voted on and approved in 2006 Measure AA, and providing medical services and transports to the premier trauma and cardiac hospitals in San Luis Obispo County. Ambulance revenues for fiscal year 2015-16 were $659,541 for a total of 572 transports and 1,552 ambulance-related incidents

However, the major funding sources for the operation of the Cambria Community Healthcare District are derived from property taxes and assessments. The district has no control over our amount of the property tax revenue.

In 1985, the first parcel assessment was established and voters passed Measure B to raise additional money for ambulance and equipment replacement. The annual fee was $3 for unimproved lots and $7 for improved lots.

In 1994, voters approved an increase to the special assessment raising the fee for unimproved lots to $7 and improved lots to $20. In 2006, voters approved the latest assessment increase to fund two on-duty crews, 24/7. The 2006 approved assessment fee for unimproved lots was $28 and for improved lots was $85. During fiscal year 2015-16 the district’s property tax revenues were $472,534 and assessment revenues were $483,379, for a total of $955,913.

For the past 69 years, the district has not only provided for and supported the mission of providing for physicians and dentists as mandated by the California Health and Safety Code, it has developed an advanced emergency support ambulance service vital for the residents and visitors to the North Coast. For the 2015-16 year, the district was able to deliver these services to the residents and visitors to the North Coast based on revenues of $1,700,946.

Every day we see and appreciate water as we brush our teeth, bathe and wash, and it should also be a comfort to know, but not have to think about the rapid response from the Cambria Community Healthcare District to your 911 call.

Kristi A. Jenkins, BSMT, MHA, is president of the Cambria Community Healthcare District board.