More than 25 people gathered at the San Benito Health Foundation on April 6 for Monterey Bay Economic Partnership’s (MBEP) leadership breakfast featuring Rosa Vivian Fernandez, who spoke on health, housing and San Benito County’s role in advocating for funding.
Fernandez, who has been president and CEO of the Health Foundation since 2004 and is a MBEP board member, said health outcomes need investment and that she views health as a combination of various factors, not just physical.
“There are three pillars I grew up with,” Fernandez said. “You needed to have a healthy life, you needed to have a roof over your head and something to eat. I think those are the core.”
As an example, she said during the pandemic, staff called every patient to find out how the residents were doing and what was needed. She added the Health Foundation was able to partner with organizations and businesses to distribute food to their patients when they had resources.
Asked by Community Foundation for San Benito County President and CEO Gary Byrne about the impact of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital potentially closing, she said it will have an impact to the rural community but said tertiary care, isn’t done just locally because of technology such as telemedicine, robotics and multi-specialties.
According to Verywell Health, tertiary care requires specialized equipment and expertise for procedures such as dialysis, various surgeries and severe burn treatments.
“We do partnerships with Natividad, Salinas Valley Memorial, Stanford and UCSF.” Fernandez said. “When our patients need tertiary care, our patients mostly run into that level of tertiary care that is not available in our community.”
She added that San Benito County residents need a hospital in their community but the healthcare industry needs to be realistic in terms of what services can be provided and the level of care that can be sustained.
Asked by Youth Alliance Executive Director Diane Ortiz how San Benito County can be equitably represented, Fernandez said our region needs to work together toward one goal and then equitably distribute the resources. She added that the county needs to be represented in organizations and networks.
“We need to be at the table and we need to be very vocal when we are at the table,” Fernandez said.
She added organizations need to be ready to do the work that needs to be done when resources are allocated to the region.
Fernandez also said equity doesn’t mean all areas get the same resources.
“It’s proportionately divided to ensure that those that are smaller get what they need because the smaller ones may not need less than the bigger ones,” Fernandez said. “They may need more because they need the infrastructure.”
The hour and a half event began with the economic partnership’s CEO Tahra Goraya providing an overview of the nonprofit organization, its mission and vision.
According to its website, MBEP is a regional member-supported nonprofit organization consisting of public, private, and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz. Founded in 2015, the partnership’s mission is to improve the economic health and quality of life in the region.
In her presentation, Goraya highlighted efforts to push for accessibility to affordable housing and broadband as well as programs and initiatives MBEP is part of.
The event ended with some attendees taking a tour of the San Benito Health Foundation facility. Available services include dental, vision and medical care. The facility also houses the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program which provides supplemental nutrition assistance, breastfeeding education and referral services.
Among the attendees were San Benito County Supervisors Dom Zanger and Angela Curro, San Juan Bautista Mayor Leslie Jordan and Councilmember John Freeman; former San Juan Bautista mayor Cesar Flores, San Juan Bautista Planning Commissioner Tony Correia, San Benito Health Foundation Board Member Yolanda Lopez and Vanessa Gonzalez representing state Senator Anna Caballero.
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