Sharon Wetzler DePeters, Nurse Practitioner
Sarasota County Public Hospital Board At Large, Seat 1
1. What are the major pros and cons of privatizing Sarasota Memorial Hospital and what is your position?
In my experience, having been a healthcare practitioner in both private and public hospitals, I found for every one advantage of privatizing there are several advantages for remaining public. Just to mention a few, our community private hospitals tend to be small, while SMH is accessible with over 800 beds in Sarasota as well as the clinics strategically located around the County. Insurance forms are regulated, and care tends to be more expensive in private hospitals while SMH proves to be more affordable and in fact will not turn anyone away needing care regardless of insurance and/or ability to pay. In comparison, SMH is obligated to invest all profits back into the public hospital whereas private hospitals have no obligation to do so. Consequently, there is no doubt that I am in favor of keeping SMH public.
2. Regarding the expansion of Sarasota Memorial Hospital: please expand upon why you agree or disagree with the current expansion?
I totally agree with the current plan for SMH to pursue a hospital in Venice in order to meet the growing populations medical needs. In a recent Herald Tribune article, community leaders voiced the need to have a hospital for a wide variety of reasons including the rapid growth population estimated at 10,000 new residents in the next decade. “SMH is a taxpayer-supported hospital, and residents deserve access to that care in South County just like in North County.”
3. How would you like future expansion to proceed?
With revenues and patient volumes increasing, I am confident that the administrators will move forward to provide our community with a low cost, high quality of care facility that focuses on meeting the needs of the people it serves. However, there is much planning and preparation required to proceed. With that being said, I would like to see final approval plans and ground breaking within the next few years.
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?
I stand in favor of accepting the Federal Medicaid Funds, however, I am not looking forward to the Federal Government’s involvement once we accept do accept the funds.
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?
Unity begets power. It takes more than a few to speak out and be heard. State lawmakers must be in tune with the needs of each Florida communities that struggles with moral and financial issues while caring for the healthcare needs of their population. Let our voices be heard and don’t settle for less.
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?
According to 2015 demographics in Sarasota County, 17.6% of respondents report having health status limitations because of physical, mental, or emotional problems. In addition, 12.2% of county population income is below 100% poverty level.
Last week, a Mental Health Forum was presented at SMH with a distinguished panel of experts discussing treatment options, personal challenges and triumphs of those living with mental illness, safety issues, and strategies for reducing stigma, mental health reform and more. It comes at a timely opportunity for Lawmakers to approve expansion of Federal Medicaid funds.