Children and Youth

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital celebrates next generation in women’s healthcare

Advancements in local breast cancer screening and new pediatric group expected in the new year.
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This article was contributed by Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Marketing Director.

The Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital (HHMH) Women’s Center opened five years ago this December, with the goal of combining modern technology and comfort. In 2019, the Women’s Center is expected to begin digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) for breast cancer screening and bring aboard a new pediatric hospitalist group, to advance the women’s healthcare services.

For all five consecutive years, both the doctors and nurses of the labor and delivery department have been awarded a BETA Award for Excellence from the BETA Healthcare Group. The award is given to hospitals that demonstrate 100 percent compliance with all elements of the “Quest for Zero” obstetrical safety program, whose goal is to promote best practice in care delivery to moms and babies. The program requires training and participation of the entire department.

Community Calls for a Transformation

Hazel Hawkins Hospital formerly had just two delivery rooms, shared postpartum rooms, surgery and recovery in different buildings altogether. With San Benito County growing rapidly, the community overwhelmingly passed Bond Measure L in 2005, aimed at updating the hospital and building the Women’s Center.

Today, the Women’s Center offers 13 spacious birthing suites with recessed lighting, dark-wood paneling, and large, private bathrooms. Essential medical equipment is artfully concealed until needed, and new babies are delivered, cleaned, assessed, and monitored in the room. Each room is equipped with delivery lights, an adjustable bed and a baby warmer with all the necessary resuscitative equipment.

The Women’s Center also has its own surgical suite for performing emergency procedures, adding a great measure of safety to patient care. A recovery room adjacent to the OR enables mothers to be united with their newborns with skin-to-skin contact as quickly as possible after a surgery such as a C-section, nearly eliminating the need for moms and babies to be separated.

Patients at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital receive on-call massages by a certified massage therapist and celebratory meals during their stay. And the support doesn’t stop when mothers leave the hospital. HHMH offers free nursing mother’s support classes in the center’s beautiful resource library. Led by a board-certified lactation consultant, the group welcomes all nursing moms in the community.

The second floor of the Women’s Center is home to the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center, offering diagnostic equipment available for women’s breast health. The Imaging Center currently performs screening and diagnostic digital mammography, 3-D and 4-D automated breast ultrasound, cyst aspiration, ultrasound-guided and stereotactic-guided breast biopsies, wire localization for breast surgery, bone density Dexa scanning, and echocardiography.

Award-Winning Doctors and Nurses

Without the skill and compassion of the doctors and nurses at the Women’s Center, it might just have been a fancy building. Obstetrician Ralph Armstrong, DO, started working at Hazel Hawkins Hospital in August 2005 and was fortunate enough to have input into the design and construction of the Women’s Center. He also happens to be the OB who delivered the very first baby in the center.

Armstrong is justifiably proud of the improvements.

“When you walk into one of our new birthing rooms it looks like a hotel,” said Armstrong. “The hospital environment is de-emphasized to create the most soothing and supportive experience."

Armstrong has witnessed a transformation in both the hospital and the community since he delivered the first baby here in 2013.

“Having the Women’s Center has transformed obstetrical care in Hollister,” said Armstrong.

Hazel Hawkins Hospital labor and delivery nurses share in Armstrong’s enthusiasm for how the Women’s Center has improved the entire birth experience. “It’s so much better for the patients and for those of us taking care of them,” says RN Linda Bedolla, a Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital nurse since 2009.

Bedolla is just one of the many nurses who call San Benito County their home and feel a sense of pride in providing the quality healthcare to women in their own community. “All the nurses live in the community and this is our hospital,” said Bedolla. “Our patients are people we will see months or years later in town, we’ll see the kids grow up.”

For nurses, said Bedolla, Central Fetal Monitoring has made the biggest positive impact on their work regarding the labor and birth experience. Nurses can now monitor fetal strips from outside patient rooms, allowing patients more privacy with their newborn and uninterrupted rest. Portable monitors allow mothers in labor to walk around and shower. Doctors, too, can monitor fetal heart rates offsite from their smart devices.

Not surprisingly, patient safety scores and the level of patient satisfaction have soared since HHMH’s Women’s Center opened. In Fall of 2018, the Leapfrog Group—an independent, national nonprofit health care ratings organization—awarded Hazel Hawkins Hospital with an “A” grade for patient safety. The grade recognizes the hospital's commitment to exceptional patient safety and meeting the highest quality and safety standards. Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grade rates how well hospitals protect patients from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.

A New Standard of Care for Breast Imaging

Critical to women’s healthcare moving forward will be the upgrade to digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) within the year at the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center mammography unit. DBT is an advanced form of mammography that creates 3-D images of the breasts and can be used to screen for early signs of breast cancer in women with no symptoms, or as a diagnostic tool for women that are having breast cancer symptoms.

Radiologist Ka-Wah Tung, MD, has worked in the tri-county area since 2015 and at the Women’s Diagnostic Imaging Center for the last two and a half years. He and his fellow radiologists are well attuned to the range of medical and emotional factors associated with breast cancer screening.

Tung understands that returning for additional imaging of the breasts can be emotionally charged. “Everyone assumes the worst when they are recalled back from a routine screening mammogram,” said Tung. “DBT has been shown to decrease overall recall rate, without a decrease in cancer detection rates.”

With standard 2-D mammography, normal tissues superimposed on each other can appear abnormal.

“DBT allows the radiologist to evaluate the breast tissue in 3-D, reducing the number of women called back for additional diagnostic evaluation of these asymmetries that often turn out to be benign overlapping tissue,” said Tung.

Radiologists at the Imaging Center will personally call the primary care physicians of patients whose scans show concerning findings and the need for biopsy, and the doctors talk one-on-one with those patients whose images indicate benign findings to reassure them. “I treat every patient like family,” Tung said, noting that getting a sense of whether someone is prepared to take on breast cancer is a crucial skill for a radiologist.

Partnership with Pediatrix Medical Group

Another step forward for the Women’s Center in 2019 is an expected partnership with Pediatrix Medical Group of California, a nationally known pediatric medical group that also provides services to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. Pediatrix is expected to provide highly trained hospital-based pediatric hospitalists to assist with high-risk newborn deliveries, help determine when a newborn requires transport out for critical care, support the care of well newborns in the nursery, and care for inpatient children and teens.

Pediatric hospitalists will also be on hand to provide onsite consulting services to attending medical staff and ER physicians and to help stabilize patients in emergency situations. The partnership is expected to bring experience and vital support to both the Women’s Center and ER, adding another essential healthcare service to San Benito County.



Frankie Gallagher