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With the five-year anniversary of the Women’s Center at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, we would like to thank the community that supported Measure L that provided the bond money to build not only the Women’s Center, but the Emergency Department as well. Many thanks go to our hospital CEO, Ken Underwood, for bringing these projects to fruition.

Over the past 18 years, Underwood’s progressive thinking in strategic planning, along with support from the San Benito Health Care District Board of Directors, has led to the expansion of services, facilities and programs for the district. His accomplishments include the purchase of Mabie Northside Skilled Nursing Facility, the construction of Mabie Southside Skilled Nursing Facility, the Ambulatory Surgery Center, the Support Services Building, as well as the creation of four new community health centers, Hollister Multi-Specialty Center, Hollister Orthopedic Specialty Center, three outpatient lab sites and an outpatient radiology center and the new Diabetes Health Care Center.

These buildings, programs and services have all been required to keep up with the rapid changes in health care and the demands of our community. However, in my humble opinion the Women’s Center is the crown jewel in the series in terms of functionality and esthetics.

Women make up more than 50 percent of the population of San Benito County, and the child-bearing segment needed to have more comfortable, satisfying and safe experience with our hospital. The Birthing Center offers 13 private, spacious birthing suites allowing privacy for family-oriented care and mother-baby bonding. The center also houses a surgical suite, and state-of-the-art surgical equipment for performing emergency surgical procedures for obstetrical delivery complications, which adds a great measure of safety to patient care. Anesthesia services are available 24 hours a day, making the birth experience safer and less exhausting for patients in labor.  We now have the room to offer additional patient services, such as a lactation specialist who holds classes to prepare new mothers for nursing their newborns. This allows us to meet the state mandated goal of exclusive breastfeeding for new moms.

Women in our community now have access to the most technologically advanced diagnostic equipment for women’s breast health with our new digital mammography, digital stereotactic breast biopsies, 3D and 4D automated breast ultrasound, bone density Dexa scanning and echocardiography.

Our patient safety scores and level of patient satisfaction have grown exponentially since the Women’s Center opened, and we are fortunate to have a dedicated, highly trained, compassionate group of nurses, technologists and ancillary personnel working in the center.

Small hospitals have many challenges: changing technology, state and federal mandates, labor relations and ever-changing reimbursement rules by Medicare and Medi-Cal.

I am pleased to see our administrative team take the initiative to pursue a Critical Access designation for our hospital to receive higher reimbursement rates. I am gratified that my hospital has thrived in this environment and provided us the expanded new facilities that we need to practice in the 21st century.

Dr. M. Aslam Barra is a Hollister obstetrician/gynecologist.

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