Press Release

Hazel Hawkins registered nurses call on management to focus on patient care instead of bankruptcy appeal

Three nurses inside hospital hold signs "Patients First"

RNs say: Management needs to restore medical services and staffing, not push to privatize hospital

Registered nurses at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Calif. will hold a rally on Wednesday, April 3 to call on management to focus on patient care and restore eliminated medical services and staffing, instead of directing taxpayer money toward an appeal following their failed bankruptcy case. The California Nurses Association (CNA) announced plans for the rally today.

Nurses have long charged that the bankruptcy filing is an effort to bust the unions who represent Hazel Hawkins workers, by paving the way for a sale to a private entity.  

“The bankruptcy I see is the moral bankruptcy of the San Benito County Health Care District Board that would grant CEO Mary Casillas a $100,000 raise, to bring her salary to $450,000, even as she cuts services to patients and pushes nurses out of our hospital with scare tactics,” said Sonia Duran, a registered nurse in the medical-surgical unit. “The bankruptcy I see is the moral bankruptcy from our CEO and our board that seems bound and determined to privatize our hospital. How many millions of dollars, including taxpayer dollars, has our CEO and the district spent on their failed bankruptcy efforts? It is time to focus on patients and community needs. It is past time that our CEO and our board listen to the community and prioritize making this hospital whole, keeping it a community asset, and ensuring our patients are getting the care they need.”

Who: Hazel Hawkins registered nurses and health care workers  
What: Rally to demand management and board focus on patient care 
When: Wednesday, April 3 11:30 am - 1 pm 
Where: Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, 911 Sunset Dr., Hollister, Calif.

It is not clear how much money the district has spent on its bankruptcy case, but the hospital has taken in millions in taxpayers money over the last few years. From 2018 through June 2023, the hospital received around $24 million dollars from property taxes collected by San Benito County. In 2022, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors agreed to give Hazel Hawkins a tax advance of more than $2 million. Last year, Hazel Hawkins was granted $13 million dollars in loans by the state, including a $10 million interest-free loan.

On March 21, Judge Stephen Johnson, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern California District of California, agreed with Hazel Hawkins nurses, represented by California Nurses Association, and dismissed the San Benito County Health Care District’s assertion of bankruptcy, stating that the district “failed to show it is insolvent.”

According to the district's financial reports, Hazel Hawkins brought in $7.6 million in net income in fiscal year 2023, which ended June 30, 2023. Since July 2023, the District has brought in an additional $8.8 million in net income. 

In his ruling, Judge Johnson noted that the financial forecast submitted by the San Benito County Health Care District “has substantial differences when compared to the District’s audited financial statements and its monthly internal financial statements, and this became a major point of contention during the trial.” In conclusion, the judge found: “[T]he District failed to present a coherent theory to show the appropriate number of days of cash on hand for the District. For these reasons, the court does not find the B. Riley Expert Report [the district’s financial consultants] to be a reliable source of information for determining insolvency and discounts its conclusions accordingly.”

The judge’s decision aligns with the findings of a report commissioned last year by San Benito County, which found that Hazel Hawkins “does not need to be in bankruptcy or sold to a for-profit provider.” 

Nurses strongly believe that selling to a private entity not only puts the health of the community at risk, but also its economic security.

“The public needs to understand that if Hazel Hawkins is sold to a private buyer, that buyer would be able to cut services or even close the hospital according to their whims,” said Diane Beck, a registered nurse and chief representative at the hospital for CNA. “That is why we are adamant that we must work together to keep it a public hospital. Hazel Hawkins is one of the largest employers in San Benito County with some 500 employees. Community members must have a voice in the future of our hospital.”

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and nearly 225,000 RNs nationwide.