SARASOTA (March 18, 2013) – After a public hearing punctuated by impassioned pleas and heartfelt testimonials from dozens of physicians, nurses, patients and community partners, the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board voted Monday to keep Sarasota Memorial a not-for-profit public institution.
The unanimous vote concluded a state-mandated review to determine whether or not the community would benefit more from selling Sarasota Memorial Health Care System to a private entity or leaving it as a public system. Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill requiring all public hospitals to undergo an appraisal of their quality, cost efficiency and value to the community, and to share those results in a public hearing.
SMH performed well in evaluations that compared the organization's cost-efficiency and quality to a number of private hospitals throughout the region. During Monday evening's meeting, Sarasota Memorial Chief Financial Officer William Woeltjen noted that Sarasota Memorial is decreasing its reliance on ad valorem support (tax revenue is down 28 percent since 2007), even though it continues to lose roughly $85 million a year in bad debt, charity care and other community programs and services for the indigent and underinsured in the region.
Sarasota Memorial Chief Medical Officer Steve Taylor, MD, highlighted quality measures showing that Sarasota Memorial performs comparably to its peer group, and in several areas, is a top performer. Meanwhile, the independent firm hired to appraise the hospital placed Sarasota Memorial's fair market value in the $425-475 million range.
About two dozen former patients, community members, physicians, volunteers and staff let Sarasota Memorial's Hospital Board know that they opposed “their” hospital becoming a for-profit business and that you can't put a price tag on such an important community asset. Several residents shared personal stories about the compassion and care they received while recovering from illness or injuries.
"You are the only reason I'm here today ... How could I not come and say 'thank you,' " said Ana Gonzalez, a former patient who was in a coma for four months following a car accident two years ago.
The Hospital Board was heartened by the community's show of support.
"This process has been very gratifying and validating," said Hospital Board Chair Dick Merritt. "It demonstrated that SMH is a valuable community asset and we are thankful for the community's support.
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