Hazel Hawkins’ nurses fight to keep hospital open

Submitted by ADonahue on
Large group of nurses hold long list of petition signatures

By Rachel Berger

National Nurse magazine - Oct | Nov | Dec 2023 Issue

Registered nurses at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Calif., presented the San Benito County Health Care District at the district’s mid-November meeting a community petition with more than 1,500 signatories supporting their ongoing fight to keep their hospital open.

“It is clear our community understands that it is imperative that Hazel Hawkins remain a full-service hospital with no cuts to staffing or service lines,” said Sonia Duran, a registered nurse in the medical-surgical unit. “We are calling on the San Benito County Health Care District to keep Hazel Hawkins a public community hospital. The district now has before it a proposal from San Benito County as well as a consultant’s extensive report finding that the hospital does not need to be in bankruptcy or sold to a private entity. It is critical that the district does everything in its power to explore all viable options outside of bankruptcy that respect the nurses, other workers, and the community’s well-being.”

“As far as we understand, the district has failed to respond to the San Benito County proposal in any way,” continued Duran. “It boggles the mind to think there is a pathway to save the hospital from bankruptcy and to keep the hospital public but those in charge of the stewardship of Hazel Hawkins have not even picked up the phone or sent an email to follow up.”

In October, San Benito County and Salinas Valley Health officials jointly submitted a non-binding letter of intent to create a joint powers authority that could raise capital and take over operating of Hazel Hawkins.

Nurses are encouraged that the San Benito County Board of Supervisors is putting its resources and time into formulating a plan that would keep Hazel Hawkins public and in the hands of the people of San Benito County.

“It is vitally important that those who work at the hospital, nurses, and other health care workers, along with community members, are invited to take part in these discussions as they go forward,” said Diane Beck, an operating room nurse. “We are renewing our calls for transparency from the district as it is unclear if they are acting in the best interests of the community or if there are other factors at play.”

The San Benito County supervisors commissioned a report by ECG Management Consultants that concluded that Hazel Hawkins “does not need to be in bankruptcy or sold to a for-profit provider.” This conclusion is in line with the nurses’ contention that the San Benito County Health Care District rushed to file for bankruptcy, despite the hospital’s relatively stable and improving finances.

In its report, ECG Management Consultants recommend a workable pathway forward and conclude the community would be best served by “establishing a new hospital governing board” and “new administrative leadership.”

“It is gratifying to hear these experienced health care consultants come to the same conclusions that we, the nurses, have come to: we need new administrative leadership and a new governing board,” said Beck.

Rachel Berger is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.