Hazel Hawkins

The San Benito Health Care District board (SBHCD) will vote on Jan. 25 whether or not to appoint Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital (HHMH) interim CEO Mary Casillas to the permanent CEO position.

The district board recommended prior to the Jan. 25 meeting that Casillas be appointed to the position for a one-year term at a salary of $450,000 annually. Her contract can be renewed annually until 2027.

Casillas was appointed as interim CEO in November 2022, after former CEO Steve Hannah stepped down in October of that year. Within weeks of her appointment, HHMH declared a fiscal emergency, leading to a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in May 2023.

Since then, community members and nurses employed by HHMH who are represented by California Nurses Association (CNA) have spoken out against the need for HHMH to claim bankruptcy. CNA has disputed the district board’s claim that the hospital is insolvent, and in December 2023 the union took HHMH to trial in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court over the legitimacy of the filing.

“As nurses who are extremely concerned about the well-being of our community and patients at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, we are appalled and outraged that the San Benito Health Care District has chosen this time to not only consider elevating Mary Casillas’ status from interim to permanent CEO but to offer a salary that would amount to an indefensible greater than 30% increase in her salary since her tenure began,” said a statement from CNA.

The hospital has previously  defended the level of compensation for its executive officers.

In September 2023, HHMH spokesperson Marcus Young said that hospital leaders voluntarily took a 10% pay cut during the first part of [2023]  that Casillas’ salary at the time was “commensurate with our market and health system size.”

Watsonville Community Hospital in September 2023 hired Stephen Gray as CEO at an annual salary of $475,000. That’s in addition to $166,250 in incentives and a $35,000 signing bonus. The hospital has a 106-bed capacity; HHMH, by comparison, has a 25-bed capacity.

The San Benito Health Care District regular meeting will take place on Thursday Jan. 25 at 5pm at HHMH’s Support Services building (2nd floor) in the Great room.

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