Saint Louise
music in the park san jose

Players involved in the increasingly discordant relationship between the hospital and health foundation must find a way to put aside personality differences and give utmost priority to providing the best health care possible for this county’s residents.

With years of stockpiled tension holding them down, officials at the public Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital and the federally supported nonprofit San Benito Health Foundation no longer have a choice. They absolutely must get along with each other. And they have to find a way to officially make up in the next four months.

The clock is ticking because a Sept. 1 deadline is looming from the state as it prepares to allocate Medi-Cal funds under Obamacare reform. The county has to join a regional alliance  – supervisors have signed a letter of intent to join what’s called the Central California Alliance for Health – but the hospital and health foundation have to work out some fairly significant differences before that can occur.

No matter what it takes, the two sides need to put taxpayers and county residents first. They must put aside egos, get in a room, lock the door and figure this thing out.

Both sides have stated their reluctance about a partnership. Hospital officials have expressed concern that the health foundation won’t budge on a policy of referring patients out of county to Saint Louise in Gilroy. Health foundation officials have expressed trepidation about referrals to Hazel Hawkins with regard to quality of care, costs, and servicing uninsured or under-insured patients.

For any sort of partnership to move ahead, the two sides will have to swallow some pride and end what amounts to bickering on repeat. They will have to agree to disagree at times, and merely listen at others.

When you filter out personalities, the common goal should be obvious – doing what is best for the future of Medi-Cal patients and health care in San Benito County. In all of the loudness, that simple objective gets lost.

After all, both sides are right, in a sense. Hazel Hawkins is right to emphasize the importance of keeping Medi-Cal patients in the county. As a community that recently invested $32 million in the historic renovation project at the public hospital, it is especially crucial to make the most of the resource – the Women’s Center addition is opening soon and should provide a major boost to the campus – and prevent leakage to other county’s health institutions for basic care.

The health foundation, on the other hand, is right to push for the best possible quality of care for its patients. Any concerns from the health foundation should be addressed, and taken seriously, at the outset of the revived talks.

Ultimately, for the sake of the all this county’s people, those who are better off and others who are struggling to get by, this severely tainted dialogue between the health foundation and hospital must end.

Supervisor Robert Rivas made the most sense at the April meeting when he said the strained relationship between the hospital and health foundation was at the heart of the issue.

“Is this really about patients or is it about personalities?” he said, adding that he believes it is about personalities.

It’s a fair question and conclusion, and a shame we have to even consider it.

Health care district Trustees Gordon Machado and Jim West, along with Hazel Hawkins public affairs director Frankie Gallagher, sit on the Free Lance Editorial Board. They were not involved in coming to a consensus on this editorial.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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