Delores “Dee” McFarland
Hospital Board Northern District, Seat 1
Hospital Board Northern District, Seat 1
1. What are the major pros and cons of privatizing Sarasota Memorial Hospital and what is your position?
I see no upside in privatizing SMH. SMH should remain a community non-profit hospital because it is publically funded, more affordable than private hospitals, and is not subject to a large corporate owner looking to make a profit for its owners/stockholders, often at the expense of quality care. And, SMH provides a safety net in the county for the underinsured and the uninsured. My position is to stand guard against any movement to privatize SMH. Despite its tremendous growth and all its honors, Sarasota County’s only publicly owned hospital remains the only not-for-profit hospital in the surrounding 4-county region and provider of safety net of care for the community.
2. Regarding the expansion of Sarasota Memorial Hospital: please expand upon why you agree or disagree with the current expansion?
Sarasota Memorial, founded in 1925, is one of more than 30 nonprofit community hospitals in Florida. I agree with the current expansion plans to create more beds in South County, including North Port and Venice. The current expansions to provide more medical services on St. Armand’s Circle and in Newtown are also good, however these expansions need to be closely monitored to assure that SMH does not overextend its budget. Also, fair and equitable contracts with physicians in these communities is also important.
3. How would you like future expansion to proceed?
Successful expansion into south county within the next 12-24 months with approved Certificates of Need and partnership with local physicians groups and citizens in the respective communities is key to successful future expansion.
4. The failure of the State of Florida to expand Medicaid increases the hospital's uncompensated costs. What is your position on accepting the Federal Medicaid Funds?
Florida Republicans' antipathy toward the Affordable Health Care Act is the only reason why the state has not accepted the Medicaid expansion that came in conjunction with this act. The Supreme Court said states could decide whether to participate. Traditionally Medicaid in Florida has covered low-income children, frail elderly and disabled adults, and pregnant women. Since 2013, the ACA would provide Florida an estimated $51 billion over the next 8-10 years to expand Medicaid coverage to about 1.1 million of the lowest-income uninsured. It is purely political that Florida does not accept this Medicaid expansion, which will continue to have serious impact on SMH’s uncompensated costs which increase significantly each year. We must convince the state legislature to accept this additional funding.
5. Moral and financial reasons for accepting Federal Medicaid Funds which were presented to the past Legislature did not work. How can the taxpayers encourage the Legislature to accept the federal Medicaid funds?
Taxpayers can write and petition their local state representatives and senators to let them know that we need to accept these funds. If citizens get enough traction on this issue, it can impact the outcome of the upcoming and future elections. Citizens should vote for candidates who support accepting these federal funds.
6. Mental health services are currently poorly funded; the low income working poor and some elders could benefit from the expansion of the federal Medicaid funds. How do you feel the hospital can be instrumental in providing the proposed expansion of mental health services that may be funded under the Affordable Care Act?
Recently a group of mental health professionals met at SMH. The panel discussion, “Mental Illness: Seeking Solutions for Sarasota County,” brought together nearly 200 county residents interested in developing better care, treatment and options for local individuals, hosted by the Sarasota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. The hospital can serve as a conduit for further community coalitions to bring about a paradigm shift in our community regarding the need for improved mental health services. SMH can promote its position to state legislators on expanding mental health services that may be funded by ACA.