In an effort to cut costs as Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital (HHMH) faces a potential bankruptcy, the San Benito Health Care District Board of Directors voted Jan. 6 to close the hospital system’s home healthcare department.
The board’s vote was in line with a recommendation from Hazel Hawkins’ administrative team. The department, known as San Benito Home Health Agency, will close effective Jan. 31. Effective immediately, the agency will stop accepting new patient referrals.
“This was a difficult decision to make,” HHMH Interim CEO Mary Casillas stated. “However, with consistently declining volumes, it was a sound business decision. There are duplicate services within our community that will be able to provide the needed home health care services to our patients.”
Current patients of SBHHA are the top priority during this transition, Hazel Hawkins said in a press release. Home health visits will continue through the end of January and SBHHA staff will work closely with key referral partners to ensure patients have continuity of care.
The closure will affect 16 employees, four of whom are per diem, said hospital officials.
In collaboration with the California Nurses Association and the California Licensed Vocational Nurses Association, the Hollister hospital will follow union contract guidelines for represented employees who may be eligible to apply for open positions within the organization. Non-represented employees will also be given the opportunity to fill vacant positions within the District for which they are eligible.
Hazel Hawkins’ board of directors on Nov. 4, 2022, approved a resolution of a fiscal emergency, which authorizes the hospital’s administrators to file a petition under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The hospital has not yet filed for bankruptcy.
Less than a month before that, the hospital board ended its contract with former CEO Steve Hannah. Appointed as interim CEO was Mary Casillas, who was formerly Hazel Hawkins’ Chief Operating Officer.
At a special meeting Dec. 15, the county board of supervisors rejected a request from Hazel Hawkins staff for a $10 million loan. Hospital staff said that amount would have significantly helped Hazel Hawkins stay open through the fiscal emergency.
The Board, however, agreed to advance the hospital’s expected payment of $1.1 million worth of property taxes. The payment would have been due to Hazel Hawkins in April 2023 as a regular disbursement of property tax revenues. The hospital was also scheduled to receive about $1.1 million for its December property tax revenues, according to HHMH staff.
In late December, Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital employees received notices indicating the Hollister hospital could close as soon as February 2023, according to HHMH administrators.
The hospital’s issuing of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) to its employees follows a string of unfortunate financial announcements from Hazel Hawkins—including staff wage cuts and a hiring freeze.