More News

Hospital lacks trauma center certification, but still provides the services

Hazel Hawkins ER doctor says the facility does so mainly because it’s the only hospital in San Benito County.

Though the Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Emergency Department announced on the hospital website last year it was working on becoming a Level IV trauma center, it has yet to receive certification.

The process to become a Level IV trauma center began in 2014, according to Michael Bogey, an emergency physician at Hazel Hawkins. Bogey briefed the hospital’s board of directors Jan. 24 on the current status of efforts to gain certification.

“We are operating as a trauma ER and we see plenty of trauma,” Bogey said. “This ER is fully equipped with three state-of-the-art trauma bays that can handle anything that’s thrown at it.”

Bogey said what the hospital normally cannot handle is “definitive care,” or what care the trauma patient must have after they’re stabilized.

Kris Mangano, San Benito County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator, told BenitoLink that certification won’t happen until San Benito County Medical Director David Ghilarducci approves it. Mangano said she and Ghilarducci met with Hazel Hawkins surgeons and anesthesiologists two weeks ago to address their concerns about what gaining Level IV trauma center certification would mean for them.

“Now it’s up to the hospital on how to proceed,” Mangano said. “Once they say they’re ready we do a walk-through with a check-off list provided by the American College of Surgeons. Then we give them our stamp of approval or recommendations for changes.”

Even though it is not certified as a Level IV trauma center, the hospital has worked to certify nurses and physicians who treat patients upon arrival at the ER. It also has agreements with regional trauma centers for when conditions warrant a patient transfer.

Because Hazel Hawkins is functioning as a non-certified trauma center, the staff can only stabilize a patient, then it must send them to a definitive-level hospital, Bogey said. He said even if Hazel Hawkins does become a certified Level IV hospital, he didn’t think it would see patients it doesn’t already see. He said that over time he hopes to be able to educate the entire medical staff on what it means to be a Level IV trauma center.

“We’re operating as a Level IV trauma center because that’s what we do,” Bogey said. “We cannot prevent the guy who flips a tractor and ruptures his spleen, or the drunk kid who broke his C2 and is paralyzed, or the gunshot to the neck that came in here two weeks ago. We have to see them because they show up at our doorstep.”

Bogey indicated that if the trauma patient cannot be stabilized in order to safely transport them to another hospital, they would be treated at Hazel Hawkins.

He explained the different levels of hospitals:

  • Level I: Provides all services (Valley Medical Center in San Jose)
  • Level II: Cares for most patients (Natividad in Salinas)
  • Level III: Sends trauma patients to other hospitals
  • Level IV: Keeps emergency room open 24/7, but sends trauma patients to other hospitals
  • Level V: Operates only part of the day and sends trauma patients to other hospitals

Bogey said because the Hazel Hawkins ER is already operating like a Level IV trauma center, it raises the level of training throughout the hospital.

“The community gets to say they’ve got a trauma center,” he said. “I can’t change the fact that [patients] aren’t going to stay here. But we have the responsibility to provide that service as a trauma center. Because we’re the only hospital in the county, we do it.”

Dr. Joseph Ezer, a pulmonologist at Hazel Hawkins, wondered why there are not more Level IV hospitals in the area. Bogey told him it isn’t easy to be certified Level IV because every nurse has to be certified, a database must be maintained, and policies need to be updated, all of which has been accomplished at Hazel Hawkins, he said.

“We’ve met the standards, now we just need the team buy-in at this time,” Bogey said. “We don’t want to do it without the general surgeons and anesthesiologists because if they’re against it, I’m not going to force their hand.”

Surgeons and anesthesiologists represent the biggest barrier to certification, Bogey said, because their perception is if the hospital is promoted as a trauma center to the public then it will have to perform as one.

“The idea of trauma is it’s a team effort and if we don’t have everyone playing on the team, it’s not worth it,” he said.



BenitoLink Logo

Become a Member Today

Support your local independent news.

We work hard to give you the news and information you need. By becoming a member, you will be part of something bigger; BenitoLink, your community-supported news source.


John Chadwell's picture
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. 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:


Well, they are certainly right that no one checks certifications when they need immediate medical care, they head for the nearest ER and HHH has a good one.

HHH is an essential county asset, the cities of San Juan Bautista, Hollister and all of San Benito County have to get involved to make sure that asset thrives or it will be gone.. There are big changes on the wish list, especially getting certified as a Critical Access Hospital and that will improve the funding issue significantly.

The judge in the Verity Health bankruptcy case (St. Louise, O'Connor, et. al.) just ruled that the California AG cannot stop the take-over by Santa Clara Country, which means St. Louise will become a county hospital soon unless the AG appeals. What does ha mean for HHH? We will have to wait and see, Santa Clara County has more money than The Almighty, if they decide to pour it into St. Louise, it might put financial pressure on HHH by taking away some of its patients. No way to tell at this point.

I believe HHH provides good medical care and we use it, especially for emergencies, but I do not think there are enough specialists in enough specialties because our limited population cannot support a full plate. So there you go again, right back to the growth issue, you just cannot get away from it. Right now we are a "tweener" to small to be big and too big to be small.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Robert Gilchris...) on

The best way to support Hazel Hawkins Hospital is for San Benito County Agribusiness to give health benefits or insurance to every one of its (minimum wage) employees, instead of voting for cheap water for themselves which the rest of us subsidize. Stop ducking this issue, Marty.

Submitted by (San Benito Farm...) on

Farmers have had ongoing difficulties in finding enough qualified employees, and have offered increasing wages and benefits, including health insurance. Hospital care benefits the entire community, and the entire community should share in assuring the facility’s future. 

Submitted by (Robert Gilchris...) on

Poor babies...

Add new comment

Add Facebook comment

Comment using your Facebook account. Facebook comments will be published on this page, and on Facebook. It will not be posted to the "Recent Comments" list on the BenitoLink front page.