The lobby at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital

San Benito County officials said they have invited Salinas Valley Health to partner in an effort to find a long-term solution on the future operations of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy last month. 

But the county also stopped short of saying in a press release last week if they intend on submitting a proposal to purchase or partner with HHMH in collaboration with Salinas Valley Health. The release says the county and Salinas Valley Health have approached HHMH—which is operated by the San Benito Health Care District—about conducting due diligence related to the hospital’s future operations. 

However, the two parties “were told that the hospital was not willing to permit the county and Salinas Valley Health to conduct due diligence or to present a proposal,” the press release says. 

But a spokesperson for HHMH denied that the hospital made such a statement to the county, and said Salinas Valley Health has separately told HHMH that it “has no interest in buying or partnering with” the Hollister hospital. 

“To be clear, the county was never told that it cannot conduct diligence or present a proposal,” HHMH and San Benito Health Care District spokesperson Marcus Young said June 12. “The county just needs to come to us with a qualified proposal, which they admit they do not have at this time.”

Young added, “Right now, we are only working with interested parties who have either the resources and experience to be a strategic partner or buyer and who agree to sign our (non-disclosure agreement). The county is considering signing one now.”

County officials said their current interest in working with Salinas Valley Health on the future of Hollister’s only hospital is spurred by concerns over the community’s long-term healthcare needs. 

“Hazel Hawkins is a vital provider of necessary health care services to our local residents,” said San Benito County Administrator Ray Espinosa. “The County of San Benito and Salinas Valley are prepared to conduct due diligence and to explore solutions in collaboration with the hospital.  We strongly believe we should have the opportunity to see what is possible. We believe that this is what our community deserves.”

The county’s press release did mention how the county might be able to secure funding for any potential proposal to keep HHMH open. 

“Salinas Valley Health is dedicated to our communities and recognizes that we are a part of the larger healthcare ecosystem of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties,” Pete Delgado, President and Chief Executive Officer of Salinas Valley Health, said in the press release. “We are happy to work with the County of San Benito and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in identifying potential opportunities to ensure Hazel Hawkins can continue providing life-saving care to the community.”

The San Benito Health board of directors in November 2022 approved a declaration of fiscal emergency, which authorized them to declare bankruptcy. While attempting for several months to find an entity with the means and interest in purchasing or partnering with HHMH, the hospital also secured a number of short-term revenue and cost-cutting solutions. 

However, those solutions weren’t enough, and the board on May 22 unanimously voted to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Such a filing allows the hospital to remain open while restructuring its operations and continuing its search for a buyer or partner. 

Young added that HHMH and the district have been in the midst of “a very thorough and exhaustive national search for either a strategic partner or buyer to ensure that we keep access to quality healthcare right here in our community.” Young noted that hospital administrators approached the county for help several months ago, but county officials turned them down. 

“Today, they are stating that they have found a partner in Salinas Valley Health and want to be a part of the due diligence process,” Young said this week. “However, our understanding is that Salinas Valley Health, while an amazing institution, does not have the interest or the funding to enter into either a strategic partnership or a buyer position with Hazel Hawkins. Therefore, the County, who also does not appear to have the funds or experience on its own, does not qualify to be considered a legitimate party for a transaction at this time.”

Still, the county is welcome to submit a proposal, Young added. 

In the county’s press release, Espinosa added that San Benito County is “prepared to help” find a solution for Hazel Hawkins’ future. 

Salinas Valley Health operates a 263-bed acute care hospital that employs more than 2,000 people and a medical staff of more than 300 physicians. The hospital individuals and families throughout the Salinas Valley, Monterey Peninsula and the surrounding region. 

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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.


  1. Mary Casillas is biased against any competing offer since she has accepted an admin job from American Advance Management.
    Based on AAM’s history, they pay a “bonus” to their CEOs before taking over.

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