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Heeding the Call for a New Hospital in Southern Humboldt

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Published in the Humboldt Independent on September 8, 2020 

On January 1, 2030, new statewide earthquake safety standards will take effect that Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville will be unable to meet. If SoHum Health does not construct a new facility that meets the stringent state seismic requirements by the end of 2029, they will have no choice but to close their doors.

The thought of Southern Humboldt losing their community hospital is unimaginable. Moreover, if this were to happen there would no longer be an emergency room for the 120-mile stretch of Highway 101 from Willits to Fortuna. Assuming the state will relax these seismic restrictions is a gamble our community cannot afford to take.

Residents of Southern Humboldt simply cannot rely on traveling out of the area to get healthcare.

Families in rural areas are faced with difficult decisions as they age or develop chronic health conditions. Too many end up forced to leave the magical place they call home in order to access the healthcare they need. A strong local healthcare presence is what the services of SoHum Health provide. They fill a vital need in the Southern Humboldt community, allow the elderly and those with chronic conditions to remain in their community, save lives in emergency situations, add good-paying jobs, and make the community an attractive place for people to raise their families and invest.

COVID-19 has brought the importance of healthcare to the forefront yet again, as the need for hospital beds and medical infrastructure has become more apparent than ever. Residents of Southern Humboldt simply cannot rely on traveling out of the area to get healthcare. Our community must focus on developing our own vital infrastructure to ensure long-term sustainability.

SoHum Health Foundation, is heeding the call to ensure this potential closure of our community hospital, does not come to pass.

In working collaboratively with the College of the Redwoods and Humboldt County, SoHum Health has already purchased a property situated directly off Highway 101 on Sprowel Creek Road. Our shared vision is to relocate the emergency and acute care departments into a new, modern hospital at this site. The new campus will also include an updated community clinic, laboratory, and radiology department (which includes CT, X-ray, ultrasound, and mammography), that will minimize costs and provide room to grow.

Once the hospital and clinic move to their new home at the Sprowel Creek campus, SoHum Health will expand the much-needed Skilled Nursing Facility from the current eight beds to 16-24 beds.

It will take roughly $40 million to build a new, seismically-safe, modern hospital in Garberville. There is a USDA loan available that would cover most of the building costs, but a 10% down payment and strong community support are loan requirements. The SoHum Health Foundation has committed to organizing a capital campaign to raise this down payment, rally community support, and make the new hospital a reality.

With COVID-19 at our doorstep, the community is at a crossroads. Every resident is being called to decide what kind of future they want to see for themselves and their children. The time has come to take the next step in building a community where every person has access to high-quality healthcare, right here at home. We all deserve it and the future of Southern Humboldt depends on it.

To find out more about SoHum Health Foundation’s plans and how you can be a part of it, visit, email, or call (707) 223-6630.

Chelsea Brown, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.