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March 31, 2023

Guest view: Hospital needs outside, objective guidance to survive

The best chance for Hazel Hawkins Hospital to survive this fiscal crisis is for district leadership to embrace outside professional guidance—an objective third-party consultant—to develop a business plan in order to stabilize a deep structural deficit while pursuing an acquisition partner. 

In my role as a county supervisor—who is not directly involved with hospital decisions but certainly wants to save the hospital—I have been extremely open about the need for the healthcare district to take this step. The district should immediately hire a consultant to develop a business plan while guiding hospital leaders on precisely where to implement bold cost-cutting and revenue-generation measures in order to find a path to sustainability. 

As part of the Intergovernmental Committee composed of elected officials from the local cities, county and school districts, I recommended engagement with hospital leaders to gauge interest in partnering toward this path. Committee members unanimously supported this engagement Feb. 15, and hospital officials will now decide if they are open to it. 

The healthcare district does contract with a firm advising officials on steps forward toward a possible merger or sale, but there has been no movement on developing an actual business plan—inevitably involving deep cost-cutting measures—while the hospital continues to burn through limited cash. 

This focus on a consultant and business plan should happen for a number of logical reasons. For one, we as a community should not expect the district’s interim CEO and part-time board to solve this fiscal crisis on their own. 

Two, we as a community absolutely cannot take the risk that interim CEO Mary Casillas—a former hospital board member hastily appointed to the top management job after the firing of the former CEO in October—has the right experience to save this sinking ship. There is far too much on the line to rely completely on an administration and board who acknowledge there is no formal plan to rescue the hospital outside of a sale.

I have repeatedly stated, in response to the hospital district’s push for an unprecedented $10 million loan from the county that would fund operations for mere months before the hospital is back in the same situation, that I refuse to take a high-risk gamble with taxpayers’ money—especially when the hospital lacks a game plan outside of hope.

Third, this district would greatly benefit from a set of fresh eyes to provide outside, objective guidance without an emotional attachment to staff members, specific services or a certain way of doing business. This hospital clearly needs more than a temporary cash infusion that would do nothing to address a staggering structural deficit. It needs a complete overhaul of operations if there is any chance for long-term survival. It needs to make drastic cuts now in order to start boldly addressing costs while implementing a plan to boost revenue over the medium and long term. 

Finally, an outside analysis would bring an inherent boost in transparency to this crisis, which has been severely lacking among hospital leaders who behave as though the healthcare district is a private corporation when, in fact, it’s a taxpayer-funded government body. 

I strongly implore the board to change course now before it’s too late. Ideally, the district would hire a new permanent CEO with appropriate experience in these matters, but there isn’t anywhere near adequate time to conduct an exhaustive search with a fiscal cliff fast approaching. So instead, on the current path, all of the proverbial chips remain in the hands of someone who hasn’t done this before. 

The most practical option is to hire an outside consultant, who has experienced this type of crisis before, to develop a business plan that gives the hospital its best chance for survival with or without a sale. 

Kollin Kosmicki is District 2 San Benito County supervisor. 

Please leave a comment


  1. Supervisor Kosmicki, you are entitled to an opinion, not an alternate set of facts.

    “I recommended engagement with hospital leaders to gauge interest in partnering toward this path. Committee members unanimously supported this engagement Feb. 15, and hospital officials will now decide if they are open to it.”

    This is an inaccurate representation as the entire Intergovernmental Committee did not unanimously agree to engage a consultant.


    “The best chance for Hazel Hawkins Hospital to survive this fiscal crisis is for district leadership to embrace outside professional guidance”.

    Supervisor Kosmicki the hospital HAS engaged a team of outside expert consultants–they presented to us at the Intergovernmental Meeting and told us of cost cutting measures, department/staff cuts and funding the hospital received which resulted in a positive change in the hospital’s financial position in just two months from -500k position in December 2022 to a positive $5M in February. The consultants were asked to bring back a simplified version of the hospital’s strategic plan at the next meeting of the intergovernmental committee which they have agreed to do.

    Here is a portion of the bio of Seth Freeman, the lead consultant who presented to our committee:
    “Seth R. Freeman, CIRA, CTP is a Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Restructuring Consultant, Crisis and Turnaround Manager and Asset Manager with over 30 years of diverse consulting experience including financial advisory, operational and financial restructuring, controlled wind-downs, transaction management, arranging new financing, fiduciary, litigation support; and cross-border due diligence, insolvency and debt resolution, market-entry strategies, compliance, fraud investigation and recovery and complex dispute negotiation. His practice also includes serving as independent advisor to significant investors and directors of companies undergoing change.”


    The Intergovernmental Committee’s charge is to work together to decide how best to help the hospital, and whether we can support them with funding. We have asked for information from them in order to make a determination. It is inappropriate to undermine all of the hospitals efforts by making statements like “…especially when the hospital lacks a game plan outside of hope.” It is not only an inaccurate representation, but is quite insulting.

    I would ask that you refrain from speaking for other elected officials, and remind you this is your personal opinion piece–you are not here representing the entire Board of Supervisors, nor do you speak for the entire Intergovernmental Committee.

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