As Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital administrators are courting potential buyers or partners to pull the financially ailing hospital from the verge of bankruptcy, a local political organization is calling for more transparency in the process.
HHMH spokesperson Frankie Gallagher this week said the hospital has signed nondisclosure agreements with “a couple of different entities.” Gallagher did not say who the entities are, and did not specify if they were interested in purchasing Hazel Hawkins outright, or entering into a partnership or some other arrangement to take some of the financial burden off the local administrators.
HHMH Interim CEO Mary Casillas added, “We have signed several non-disclosure agreements with entities interested in exploring opportunities with us. We are intent on finding the right partner that will be the best fit for our community.”
The hospital is currently hosting site visits and meetings with “potential partners,” Casillas added.
In November 2022, Hazel Hawkins’ board of directors 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.
In December, HHMH employees received notices of potential hospital closure and layoffs. In January, the hospital announced that it was approved for a $3 million bridge loan from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. Hospital officials said these funds—combined with an advance of more than $1 million in property tax revenues from the county—could extend HHMH’s operational lifespan beyond mid-March before it becomes necessary to declare bankruptcy.
Also this week, the San Benito County Republican Party sent out a statement calling for “transparency or resignations for Hazel Hawkins Hospital.” The party’s central committee on Jan. 26, by unanimous vote, adopted a resolution asking the current five members of the San Benito Health Care District Board of Directors to resign over the hospital’s financial crisis, or become more transparent in how they are responding to the fiscal emergency.
“The members of the San Benito County Republican Party have been observing that the Hospital Board members apparently were not aware of the financial crisis or chose to ignore it,” said Rob Bernosky, Chairman of the San Benito County Republican Party. “They have remained mostly silent about the financial crisis since its outing to the general public on November 4, 2022, and seemingly do not have a sense of urgency or understand the magnitude of the impact closure of Hazel Hawkins Hospital would have on our community.”
Bernosky added, “This is not about blame at this point, it’s about doing what is necessary to save it. Treating every element of their plan as being classified top‐secret in our open society is just wrong. The bottom line is that Hazel Hawkins Hospital is too important to our community to risk losing it.”
The Health Care District’s five board members are Bill Johnson, Jeri Hernandez, Jose Sanchez, Rick Shelton and Devon Pack.
In response to the Republican Party’s demands and Bernosky’s statement, Hernandez said, “We take our roles of stewardship of healthcare for the residents of San Benito County very seriously. Currently, the board is navigating the district through vital issues to ensure critical access to healthcare for our community. Efforts to malign the board and distract our executive team are counterproductive to the process and seek only to derail positive efforts for a brighter future for Hazel Hawkins Hospital and the Healthcare District.”
It seems, asking all Board members to resign at this stage in the game is like closing the barn door after the critters have already fled! No don’t resign, but certainly fix the problem and be open about it. I do believe the Board members should be held accountable for the mess they created but this should be done once the hospital gains traction toward recovery. And by being open about what they are doing will allow others to follow the course taken to make corrections along the way if needed. Trusting this Board to do the right thing has been damaged by their history of mismanagement, but right now, keep them in their current positions, don’t create more chaos.
Hazel Hawkins save my life three times! We should help the hospital out!