About Health Care Districts

According to the Association of California Healthcare Districts, health care districts:

“…are public entities that provide community-based health care services to residents throughout the state. They respond to the needs in their District by providing a range of services, which may include a hospital, clinic, skilled nursing facility or emergency medical services; as well as education and wellness programs. Each of California’s Healthcare Districts is governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees who are directly accountable to the communities they serve.”

After World War II, many areas of California, particularly the state’s rural communities, lacked access to hospitals. To reduce this disparity in access to care, the State Legislature passed the Local Hospital District Act (now known as the CA Healthcare District Law - use this link to access the text). This historical legislation allowed communities, with voter approval, to form a Special District and impose property taxes to support the construction and operation of local hospitals. Residents within a district’s boundary elect local board members to oversee the spending of their tax dollars in pursuit of improved community health. All Board meetings are open meetings subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act, assuring the opportunity for public input and transparency relative to Board decisions.

Established in 1946, Sequoia Hospital District was the first Hospital District formed in California. The first District to open a hospital was Lompoc Hospital District, which established a community hospital in 1947. Petaluma Health Care District (PHCD) was established on October 14, 1946 and operated Petaluma General Hospital. Currently, PHCD owns Petaluma Valley Hospital and leases operations to St. Joseph Health. To learn more about the Petaluma Health Care District’s history, browse our timeline.

In 1994, the State Legislature recognized the rapidly expanding role of Hospital Districts and renamed the statue the Health Care District Law. California’s 78 Healthcare Districts can be found in both urban and rural communities throughout the state and offering a wide variety of services.

In many instances, Healthcare Districts are the sole source of health care in the community, serving as an integral part of the safety net for the State’s uninsured and underinsured.

To lean more about California Healthcare Districts, please visit the Association of California Health Care District’s website.


Healthcare Districts are governed by Health and Safety Code Section 32000