Hazel Hawkins Hospital

Registered nurses at Hollister’s Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital are “deeply concerned” about the medical facility’s recent declaration of a fiscal emergency and potential bankruptcy, says a statement from the California Nurses Association. 

The nurses fear what a Chapter 9 bankruptcy at HHMH would mean for their patients and the health of San Benito County. 

“It is very troubling that the nurses are learning at the 11th hour that the district is preparing to file for bankruptcy,” said Benito Landeros, an operating room nurse. “As the only hospital in the City of Hollister and serving large swaths of San Benito County, we are gravely concerned that our patients will have continued access to all existing services.”

Hazel Hawkins’ board of directors on Nov. 4 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. 

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. 

Casillas responded to the CNA’s statement by noting that the reason the board authorized a bankruptcy filing is “to ensure continuity of care and patient safety.” 

“A bankruptcy filing would allow the district to optimally restructure its finances so we can continue to care for our community and keep our doors open,” Casillas said in a statement. “Administrative staff and restructuring counsel are continuing to negotiate with the district’s creditors and explore all options as they seek the best solutions for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital and its patient community. HHMH continues to offer high-quality patient care without compromise and all inpatient and outpatient services remain open, including the Emergency Department.”

Hazel Hawkins is the only hospital in Hollister, whose population is approximately 43,000. The hospital serves all of San Benito County. Last year, Hazel Hawkins’ emergency room treated more than 21,000 patients, says the press release from CNA, which represents more than 120 nurses who work at HHMH.  

The nurses also announced they were “deeply troubled” to learn Hazel Hawkins must repay $5.2 million in government Covid-19 funding over the next year. At the same time, anticipated future public and private reimbursement payments will be cut by millions. 

“How can it be that, five months ago, the hospital was talking about investing millions into buying up property and expanding the hospital, and now we are talking about insolvency?” asked Diane Beck, a registered nurse. “We need the people managing this public institution to be straight and transparent with the nurses and our community. The health and well-being of Hollister and San Benito County depends on Hazel Hawkins.”

The press release noted that Hannah had initially been hired to serve a four-year term, but was let go after less than two. Hannah received $360,000 in severance pay, according to the CNA.

“I have to wonder who is minding the shop and the millions of dollars in health care district funding from the taxpayers of San Benito County,” said Sonia Duran, a registered nurse. “Our health care district leadership must do everything in their power to ensure they fulfill the mission statement to serve ‘as a responsive, comprehensive health care resource for its patients, physicians, and the health care consumers of the community.’”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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