CONTESTED: Josie Sanchez has been on the district board for ten years. Photo: SBHCD

The San Benito Health Care District has been under public scrutiny since it declared a “fiscal emergency” for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in November 2022. After filing a now-dismissed Chapter 9 bankruptcy case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2023 and exploring a private sale of the hospital, some constituents have accused the board of lacking transparency.

Multiple board seats are up for contention in the 2024 November election—including that of Zone 1 director and board chair Jeri Hernandez—and both residents and local officials have pointed to a possible board shake up. 

However, a target for early removal is District 4 board director and treasurer Josie Sanchez, whose term is not up until 2026. She is currently fending off a recall effort led by local politician Rob Bernosky, who is vying for her seat.

Sanchez, who worked for 40 years as an administrative assistant at HHMH and has been on the  district board for 10 years, said in an email to the Free Lance that her constituents recognize that and will support her if the recall effort makes it to the polls.

“I have always, to the best of my ability, made decisions based on what I think is best for the hospital and employees as well as what would keep healthcare available to our community,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez was first elected to the SBHCD board in 2014 and has been reelected twice. She said that the public accusations against the current board are unfounded, and there is nothing more that could be done to address concerns regarding the pursuit of a sale or partnership for the hospital.

“This process has been extremely transparent and I feel the board has done all it can do. We have engaged the public, made all of the documents available online and conducted a town hall meeting to explain the issues and what we felt we needed to do to best address the issues facing the organization,” Sanchez said. “In addition, our executive team has conducted countless employee forums to better inform and address questions and concerns.”

The district board voted earlier this month to snub San Benito County’s proposal for a joint powers authority to run the hospital. Residents and local officials warned that the decision to pursue a lease-to-own option with Michigan-based Insight Foundation of America ultimately imperiled HHMH. The loss of local control over the hospital has become a community concern.

As the negotiations with Insight move ahead, Sanchez said that the district board is doing what it has to for the hospital, but that the public will ultimately have its say.

“We are in the process of evaluating what is best for Hazel Hawkins, but ultimately, the community will decide. The Board has spent the last 18 months seeking out potential partners, gathering information, asking hard questions,” Sanchez said. “We are currently negotiating with a partner that has experience with hospitals like ours, and has resources to invest in our community.”

The petition to recall Sanchez was filed in late May and its proponents will have until the end of August to gain the necessary signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

According to San Benito Deputy County Clerk, the petition would need to gather 25% of voters registered in Sanchez’s Health Care Zone 4. As of the latest data, there are 8,759 registered voters in that zone, requiring the petition to gather 2,190 valid signatures.

Sanchez is hoping that her constituents will thwart the effort if brought to the ballot box.

“I have a deep love and respect for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital—that includes the many people who work on the front line to serve the people of our community. It was because of my experience with the hospital, and my respect for its employees and a belief in its vital role in our community that I decided to run for the board back in 2014,” Sanchez said.

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  1. I know Josie. I was a coworker of hers and kept a friendship after she retired. She is truthful, reliable and loyal to whatever she sets out to do. I would put my life in her hands. Mr. Bernosky clearly thought she would be an easy target. Think again buddy.

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  2. I knew Josie pretty well from working at Hazel Hawkins for almost 20 years. She is about the most upright person I have ever met! Kind, calm, thoughtful and honest! This must be a huge mistake … I just do not believe that she has anything to do with this.
    So go fight them Josie, show them all… you will be victorious. I have no doubt.

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