Health

Election 2020: San Benito County Health Care District, Zone 1

Challenger Susan Postigo running against incumbent Jeri Hernandez.

There are two candidates running for to represent San Benito Health Care District, Zone 1: incumbent Jeri Hernandez and challenger Susan Postigo.

Both candidates participated in the BenitoLink 2020 Election Forum video series. The San Benito County Health Care District Zone 1 video can be viewed on the BenitoLink YouTube Channel.

 

Jeri Hernandez was first elected to the hospital board in 2016. She and her late husband, Ismael, moved to Hollister in 1986. She has four children, and her three daughters, son-in-law, and two grandsons live in Hollister as well. She owned and operated a deli and catering company for five years. She currently runs a home decor and staging company, and is involved in the Hollister Downtown Association, Hollister Ag Boosters and the Hazel Hawkins Foundation Board.

Hernandez said her involvement with the hospital began a decade ago, and that her desire to improve the care of patients goes back to 1981 when her young son, Jaysen, passed away from cancer. She said this, along with her late husband’s battle with cancer, are the reasons why she dedicates her “heart and soul to those fighting their own battles.”

Jeri Hernandez. File photo.
Jeri Hernandez. File photo.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running to represent Zone 1?

HERNANDEZ: I am running for the health care district to help ensure quality health care for my community and to help provide a safe working environment for all our employees. 

What issues are most important to the district and hospital?

The most important issues are reaching out to the community for their health care needs, keeping our finances stable, and addressing the rising cost of health care and the low reimbursement rates that we receive from insurance providers. Many hospitals around the country are facing the same challenges we are. With help from our local Congressman Jimmy Panetta and State Assemblymember Robert Rivas we have been able to confront these challenges head-on and will continue to do so until we obtain the fair and just reimbursement rates that many of our other nearby hospitals do. 

Are there issues you feel are important to the hospital or district that the public may not know about?  

There are no issues that we face that the public is unaware of. We have and will continue to be transparent in all aspects of managing the district’s finances and the services we provide.

What obstacles and challenges does the hospital face?

Rising costs of health care and low reimbursement rates. We need more mental health workers and a facility to be able to care for those whose needs have greater risk to themselves and the employees. 

How do you plan to address those issues? 

Other than reaching out to the public that may not know all that we offer, we have established a committee to do outreach with educational information tools to help the public understand what we can offer to them. It gives them the opportunity to express their concerns and for us to understand what services we may be able to include or expand. 

Fortunately, now that we have established Critical Care Access, we have the opportunity to engage primary physicians to our community. 

How do you plan to communicate and stay in touch with the constituents? 

I have and always will be an advocate for my community. As for my constituents that live in my district, they are welcome to contact me at any time either by phone at (831) 905-1513 or by email at jmhernadez@hazelhawkins.com.

 

Susan Postigo has lived in the county since 1964. She has been married to her husband Robert for 19 years. They have three children, as well as two grandchildren. She owned and operated a physician medical billing service for about 25 years and is now contracted by a local physician for medical billing purposes.

Postigo has served on the Hazel Hawkins Foundation Board, the Sociedad Española Lodge and currently serves as treasurer for the nonprofit Growing Hearts. She said she started the special needs garden at Ladd Lane Elementary School and was a member of the Hollister School District Special Needs Task Force.

Susan Postigo. Screenshot from election forum video.
Susan Postigo. Screenshot from election forum video.

BENITOLINK: Why are you running to represent Zone 1?

POSTIGO: I am enthusiastic about creating positive change and a new positive image for the district. I feel our hospital district is a much-needed organization in our county. I will try to become part of the solutions rather than the challenges that our hospital faces. Acquiring a new CEO for the hospital district and new board members may be the ideal time to make needed changes. I would also like to see more pediatric specialists in our county. As I have mentioned, I am passionate about special needs medical care. As both of my grandsons have special needs, we have found in our journey that there are very few pediatric specialists and therapists in our area. I hear these comments very often wishing parents did not have to travel so far out of the county for their child’s medical care and therapeutic needs.

What issues are most important to the district and hospital?

The hospital district lacks the acceptance of various health care insurance contracts in our county. The result of this is some of our local community cannot use the hospital facilities or physician services without paying a higher out-of-pocket cost. This results in patients leaving our community for their health care. Our district needs to start negotiating with other insurance payors so our community can be seen in San Benito County. The hospital needs to employ someone strictly to review current contracts on a routine basis to negotiate increases in reimbursement and new contracts. As our population continues to increase this would be a win-win for both the patients and the hospital. The new administration needs to collaborate with our community physicians and together find resolutions to the issues that arise with patient care, community satisfaction, and financial stability.

Are there issues you feel are important to the hospital or district that the public may not be aware about?

I am hoping that the public is aware of issues with the hospital’s actions and the hospital is transparent with these said issues at their board meetings.

What obstacles and challenges does the hospital face?

Health care, in general, always faces challenges. Our local challenge is that the majority of the patients who are seen at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital are either Medicare and/or Medi-Cal. The insurance reimbursement for these payors are lower than commercial payors. As the cost of doing business increases, the reimbursement decreases. This is partly the reason we need to offer our community access to additional insurance payors. The district also has been granted Critical Care Access designation, which is a federal grant that assists rural hospitals financially. This is a stop-gap measure and limits inpatient capacity, which does not benefit our community. Our community is in need of a full-time urologist and an additional OB/GYN. This would also prevent patients from leaving our community.

How do you plan to address those issues?

At this critical time in health care, as a board member I would highly suggest the administration review and accept more health plans, which would assist in higher reimbursement for our district. The physicians that work at the various clinics and specialty centers are employed by the hospital district. They should be monitored for productivity. Basically, are their salaries comparable to their production? Patient satisfaction should also be addressed and dealt with. My personal experience, as well as my family’s, have been positive at Hazel Hawkins. However, I realize that is not the same for all. I would try to bring back the term “community” in our community hospital.

How do you plan to communicate and stay in touch with your constituents?

I plan to make myself available through email or personal visits from my constituents, if necessary. As always, I would be encouraged to hear the positive experiences as well as the negative. Please visit my Facebook page, Susan Postigo for SBC Health Care District 1, or email spostigomaui@gmail.com.

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.