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April 1, 2023

Guest view: The path forward for HHMH

As someone who was born and raised in Hollister, whose mom was a nurse at the original hospital when it was downtown, I feel a special connection to this community—like so many of you. I was born at Hazel Hawkins, and today, as interim CEO, my colleagues and I are doing all we can to save healthcare for the thousands of San Benito County residents who rely on it every year.  

For the past several months, leadership at the San Benito Healthcare District and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital have implemented our business plan to find cost savings, reduce expenditures and secure cash to keep our organization from bankruptcy and closure. The efforts have gone a long way to shoring up our finances and keeping access to local healthcare a reality. In just two months, our initiatives increased cash on hand by about $6 million above projections. 

Right now, we have enough to sustain operations through April. Some feel that we should pursue drastic layoffs or immediately file for bankruptcy to save the organization. After detailed analysis with our consultants, we simply disagree.  

Major layoffs of our dedicated staff will only weaken our ability to deliver quality and timely care. To put the impacts of this into perspective, let’s remember that 554 of our current staff live in San Benito County. Each and every one of them are critical to the delivery of care to our families, friends and ourselves.  

On the other hand, finding a strategic partner or buyer can do several things: it will allow the District to get on sound financial footing through an influx of capital; it will provide the critical buying power and economies of scale of a larger organization; and will provide the infrastructure and systems of a larger better funded organization. No other option exists that can accomplish all of this at once. And no other option can safely and quickly guarantee the future of healthcare for the residents of San Benito County.    

Entering into a transaction with the right partner or working through a sale will take time. We have estimated that we will need to have operating cash on hand to carry us through until September of this year to realize one of those two options. It can be done. 

Currently, we are working with our legal and financial teams to restructure and turnaround the District, and secure loans that would help shore up our finances and provide the runway to secure a deal. The state is also helping us, through potential legislation, to find and obtain millions in emergency loans. The county, which could assist us right away, is seeking assurances that loans given would be secured, which we believe we can deliver. 

We need to work together to get to the finish line, and the time to come together on this is now.   

Mary Casillas is Interim CEO of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, located at 922 Sunset Drive in Hollister. 

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