Editorial: Saint Louise instability offers reminder about Hazel Hawkins

Continued instability at Gilroy-based Saint Louise Regional Hospital offers a glaring reminder about the benefits of having a community-owned hospital such as Hazel Hawkins.
While Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in late December took a monumental step in opening its state-of-the-art Women’s Center – as part of county voters’ $32 million investment through Measure L passed in 2005 – Saint Louise once again faces an uncertain future. Last week, the Daughters of Charity Health System, a Catholic group with 22 sites including Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy and five others along the coast, announced a decision to solicit proposals to purchase its hospitals individually or the health system in its entirety.
It comes less than three years after Daughter of Charity took over Saint Louise. If Saint Louis gets sold, it would be the fifth change of hands in the past 25 years for Gilroy’s primary healthcare option. With each sale, it means new management, new cost structures, new healthcare models and, most important, varying levels of care.
As opposed to the layered, cumbersome bureaucracy historically accompanying the corporate structure at Saint Louise, San Benito County’s taxpayers control Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital through elected officials chosen by voters. In this county, the hospital district is an ingrained institution and a big slice in the larger democratic pie. Top managers, meanwhile, answer directly to the public through elected officials, which has appeared to work well. Although Saint Louise is perpetually riddled by annual, multimillion-dollar deficits, Hazel Hawkins on an annual basis comes relatively close to balancing its books, usually falling slightly in the black or slightly in the red.
As opposed to the constant uncertainty facing consumers using Saint Louise, none exists as to the future of the community-owned Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. County taxpayers have given clear direction – they want to maintain ownership and control of their local hospital. They are willing to invest in state-of-the-art facilities such as the Women’s Center and emergency room opened in 2011. Because of that mentality and will locally, there is no need for insecurity about the future of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
Note: Hospital board members Gordon Machado and Jim West, along with Hazel Hawkins’ head of marking and public relations, Frankie Gallagher, sit on the Free Lance Editorial Board.

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