SARASOTA, Fla. (April 17, 2023) – Sarasota Memorial Health Care System opened its own anesthesiology practice today, expanding its First Physician Group (FPG) network to support the increasing medical needs of community members and surgeons.
The transition to providing in-house anesthesia services to surgical inpatients and people undergoing procedures in Sarasota Memorial’s outpatient facilities will be seamless to patients and physicians. Although newly added to the FPG network, the anesthesia practice is staffed primarily by longtime anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists who have been working at Sarasota Memorial for years through a contract with Sarasota Anesthesiologists.
After serving SMH for about 30 years, the group is working with the health system to transition its team to a new practice managed by FPG to keep up with growing demand. Sarasota Memorial hired 22 additional anesthesia specialists on a short-term basis to provide supplemental support to the core team while FPG intensifies efforts to recruit more full-time providers from a scarce supply of anesthesia professionals in the nation.
“For the past few months, our main focus was keeping and stabilizing the excellent team currently caring for our patients,” said Michelle Shirey, chief operating officer for FPG. “Now that the transition is complete, we are turning our attention to expanding the FPG group with anesthesiology professionals who want to put down roots in our community.”
FPG was established by SMH about 30 years ago to recruit primary care providers from across the nation to counter a critical shortage of physicians in Florida. The shortage has persisted over the decades, and worsened in recent years as the state’s population grew and grew older. To address the community’s increasing medical needs, Sarasota Memorial has grown too in recent years, opening a new hospital in Venice, a new inpatient and surgical Oncology Tower, and other specialty clinics to serve the Suncoast region.
“In those early years, FPG was a proactive step SMH took to fill the gaps and counter the shortage of primary care physicians looming on the horizon,” said Jack Rodman, MD, chief medical officer of FPG. “Today, the physician group is a critical resource and absolute necessity to serve our growing community. Supporting and expanding the new anesthesiology practice will minimize the chance for delayed or cancelled cases and continue a history of exemplary care the local anesthesiologists have provided to Sarasota Memorial patients.”
According to a study commissioned by the Physicians Advocacy Institute, the number of physicians closing or selling their private practices has been increasing, due primarily to rising administrative and infrastructure costs, the challenge of adding or adapting to new technology and the difficulty of hiring and retaining skilled physicians.
Industry consultants say competition for anesthesia specialists is particularly fierce as many community providers close their practices and become employees of national chains or private equity firms. Recent surveys revealed about 3,500 job openings across the nation and only about 1,250 new providers graduating from U.S. residency and fellowship programs to help fill those specialty slots.
Many physicians who choose to join Sarasota Memorial’s FPG network say they prefer working for a community-owned health system that has demonstrated nearly a century of high standards and dedicated service to the Suncoast region, rather than sell their private practice to a national corporation.
About Sarasota Memorial Hospital (smh.com)
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 1 million patient visits each year across its 2 hospital campuses, free-standing ER, skilled nursing and rehabilitation center and network of outpatient and urgent care centers. Its flagship 901-bed Sarasota hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best, with superior patient outcomes and comprehensive network of outpatient services. In November 2021, the public health system opened a second acute-care hospital, SMH-Venice, to serve the growing south Sarasota County region and the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute to expand and improve cancer care in the community.
About Sarasota Memorial’s First Physicians Group (firstphysiciansgroup.com)
First Physicians Group is a network of primary and specialty care physicians employed by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System to help fill the gaps caused by a shortage of physicians in the region. Backed by the resources and reputation of Sarasota Memorial, the group of more than 400 primary and specialty care physicians and advanced practice providers have been carefully selected and recruited to provide the community with compassionate and comprehensive medical care.