As Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital enters negotiations with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital on a potential affiliation, the second of two town hall meetings on the local healthcare district’s future is set for Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Hazel Hawkins wants to make one thing clear to the public it serves: the hospital is not for sale.
“We’re not looking to sell,” said Frankie Gallagher, director of marketing for Hazel Hawkins. “We’re looking to partner or affiliate with somebody.”
In early March, the publicly supported hospital announced it was looking to the future, due to a deteriorating financial situation, and would approach other healthcare facilities about prospective affiliations. On Monday, the 110-year-old hospital announced it had entered into exclusive negotiations with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital on a possible affiliation.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., the hospital will host the second of two town hall meetings on the future, and hospital finances, in the Great Room on the second floor of the Support Services Building. In advance of that meeting and after Monday’s announcement, Gallagher shared additional insight on the challenges and outlook for Hazel Hawkins.
She noted how many small hospitals are not able to stand alone anymore due to declining reimbursement rates and economies of scale. In particular, hospitals like Hazel Hawkins have experienced declining reimbursements from Medical and Medicare, and they’ve lost negotiating power with large insurance companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield. She also mentioned a shift from inpatient care to outpatient care as a major factor in the decline of revenue.
“But we still have fixed operating costs,” Gallagher said.
Some of the statistics reflect those realities and are included in a packet of information for the town hall gatherings.
- Admissions have decreased steadily from 2,253 in 2013 to 2,100 in 2017.
- The average length of stays has gone from 3.07 days in 2013 to 2.92 last year, while the daily census went from 18.94 to 16.81.
- Emergency room visits have declined from 1,521 to 1,400 in that period, while outpatient visits have jumped from 111,501 to 147,656.
Those factors have played into annual losses for the hospital, and a reversal in the trend doesn’t look likely without a change of some kind. That’s where the partnership comes into play.
“We are looking to somehow form an affiliation or partnership with a hospital or health system that’s beneficial to our community,” Gallagher said after Monday’s announcement. “It is our mission to provide care to the community here. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Moving ahead on talks with Salinas Valley Memorial became reality last Thursday with a vote by the elected board of the San Benito County Healthcare District. It was a 4-1 vote, with Dr. Ariel Hurtado dissenting.