Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Photo provided.

Information provided by Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital recently responded to accusations of violating the Brown Act after a hospital board candidate questioned the hospital board’s adherence to the California law regarding transparency for public meetings.

In a Sept. 17 BenitoLink article, San Benito Health Care District Zone 2 candidate Frank Barragan said that when he questioned the Hazel Hawkins Board of Directors in an email about the board following the Brown Act, it apparently triggered the cancellation of a Sept. 8 meeting. In the same article, Hazel Hawkins Hospital board member Ariel Hurtado told BenitoLink that the Sept. 8 closed session was canceled after word got out that it was taking place, because the board knew it would be violating the Brown Act. Hurtado also said the board had violated the Brown Act more than once while discussing the fate of the hospital.

In a response to the Brown Act violation accusations, the Hazel Hawkins Hospital Board of Directors provided BenitoLink with a response.

According to the press release, the Board of Directors of Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital prioritizes transparency and invites public involvement and discussion through community forums and full compliance  with California’s Brown Act, which protects the rights of citizens to participate in open meetings of local legislative bodies.

Regular meetings of the board of directors are open to the public and agendas for both regular and closed sessions are posted at http://hazelhawkins.com/category/meeting-agenda/. California Health and Safety Code section 32106 and Government Code section 37606 permit closed session discussions on specified topics.

All Hazel Hawkins Hospital board meetings are in full compliance with the Brown Act, the press release states, including the closed session requirements of California Government Code section 37606. Topics for closed sessions are listed on the posted agenda for a regular or special meeting, with a reference made to the Brown Act section which allows it.

Only topics authorized under the Brown Act may be discussed in closed session. According to the press release, examples of allowed closed session topics include trade secrets, strategic options pertaining to new programs and services, real estate matters, pending or threatened litigation, personnel matters and labor negotiations. Examples of prohibited closed session topics include any sale, conversion, management contract or leasing of the hospital.

In addition to open board meetings and public agendas, Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital pursues transparency and involvement through serving on the Community Health Care Advisory Committee and hosting town hall meetings aimed at generating public discussion, the press release said. Invitations to town hall meetings are published in all regional publications, on Facebook and www.hazelhawkins.com, and are available in the hospital’s front lobby.

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital also maintains an active Facebook forum, pursues guest speaking engagements, reaches out to employees with bimonthly meetings with the CEO and widely distributes press releases and letters to the community to keep citizens informed, the press release said.

Hazel Hawkins is a full-service, public agency hospital delivering modern medicine and compassionate care to the growing San Benito County community. Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital offers hundreds of health services across multiple locations, including top-tier specialists, a modern emergency room and state-of-the-art Women’s Center. To learn more about the hospital, visit www.hazelhawkins.com.