Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, Central District - Seat 1
1. What are the major pros and cons of privatizing Sarasota Memorial Hospital and what is your position?
I completely support the continued operation of Sarasota Memorial as a publicly owned hospital. The performance of the hospital by all measures has been strong including patient satisfaction, key quality and safety measures, as-well-as the financial operating margin which allows for expanding services, all while reducing the tax revenue received as a % of total revenue over the last several years.
Many residents don’t realize what services many for-profit hospitals do not provide because of these services low or no profit margins. For example, Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in the county that provides childbirth services (over 50 percent of these patients are enrolled in Medicaid or are uninsured), neo-natal intensive care (over 60 percent of these patients are enrolled in Medicaid), inpatient pediatrics care, a Level II trauma center, inpatient psychiatric services. SMH also has a Community Medical Clinic that provides a wide range of free diagnostic and specialty care for underinsured or uninsured patients.
The Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board, executive team as-well-as our experienced and highly-skilled doctors, nurses and medical technicians work together every day to ensure the highest quality of patient care and satisfaction for our entire Sarasota County community. This is reflected in the numerous awards SMH has achieved, most notably the Federal Government’s CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) 5-star award for overall quality and safety. Only 2% of hospitals nationwide achieved this recognition level.
2. Regarding the expansion of Sarasota Memorial Hospital: please expand upon why you agree or disagree with the current expansion?
I completely agree with and have supported the expansion of Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
We all know that Sarasota County is growing at record rates. In March of this year, the US Census Bureau released new statistics that showed the Sarasota metro area was ranked 11th on the list of fastest-growing areas in the United States. Almost every day there is a new story about development going on in North Port, Venice, Honore Ave in Palmer Ranch, the 75 corridor, University Ave and downtown Sarasota. That directly translates into the need for more medical services for our residents, workers and visitors. Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s average census (the number of patients in the hospital at a given time) has increased +25% over just the last 4 years.
The SMH executive management team and the Board of Directors has anticipated this growth and the resulting patient need by expanding medical services and access to that care throughout Sarasota County. At the end of 2013, SMH opened the new Courtyard Tower - a state-of-the-art, nine-floor facility with floors dedicated to childbirth and neonatal care, cardiology and orthopedics. Some recent examples include the new Level II trauma center, nursing and rehabilitation pavilion under construction opening in December, plans for the new Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Clinic in North Port slated to be open in 2017, the internal medical residency program in Newtown and the St Armand’s Urgent Care Center which will open in October to name a few.
3. How would you like future expansion to proceed?
I see the continued need for additional medical services throughout Sarasota County to meet the population growth needs that I talked about in question 2. This would mean additional primary and specialty medical practices where there is a need and is underserved. That was a major driver in the announcement establishing an Internal Medical Residency Program in partnership with the Florida State University College of Medicine to address local physician shortages. The program will include a new adult Internal Medicine practice in the Newtown community that will serve as a base for resident physicians’ outpatient training and provide care to an underserved population.
Also, I believe and support the need for a hospital in the Venice area, as well as North Port as soon as it is feasible. In terms of Venice, I feel there is a clear need for SMH to establish a new hospital there. It will ease capacity restraints at the main hospital while providing alternative services to South County residents, workers and visitors. The Venice area has the needed physicians and medical staff as well as the population demographics to support a new hospital. The case for an additional hospital in North Port will take time. The average age in North Port is younger and therefore needs less hospital services. Also, there just aren’t enough physicians located in the North Port area to support a hospital. SMH opened a free-standing ER in North Port over five years ago to bring emergency and outpatient services to the community. We just recently announced plans along with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to open a pediatric specialty clinic on the 2nd floor of the ER building. I support the continued effort to bring new and additional medical practices to the North Port area including primary and internal medicine care, obstetrics and specialty care. This will build the medical services capability that a new hospital requires.
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 support SMH accepting Federal Medicare and Medicaid 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?
Similar to any issue that taxpayers would care about, they should contact their Florida Legislature representatives to express their opinion.
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?
Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in Sarasota County providing behavioral health care for patients of all ages. SMH’s Bayside Center for Behavioral Health is licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services, accredited by the Joint Commission, and approved by Medicare and Medicaid. Their professional, certified staff members are available 24/7 for urgent consultations or by appointment during normal business hours. The Center provides clinical assessment, connection to resources, referrals, inpatient psychiatric services and Baker Act support. I would like to see more local medical providers and clinics accept Medicaid. That would support Medicaid patients getting medical services sooner and at a much lower cost to the program then waiting until a medical issue is significant and going to the Emergency Room.
Also, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Sarasota County just partnered with Sarasota Memorial Hospital on an interactive panel discussion about needs and options for area residents dealing with mental health conditions. They brought together members of local medical and mental health organizations and community residents to discuss options for mental health treatment, challenges, reform and strategies. This is the type of community program that can make a real difference in this area and I support SMH’s participation in it.
Government funding for expansion of mental health services will have to be decided by the Federal and State governments.
Sarasota Memorial, as the county’s only safety-net hospital needs financial support to continue to provide high quality medical care and expanded services to meet the needs of the community. The SMH Hospital Board and executive team have worked in close collaboration for years to operate the hospital as efficiently as possible and will continue to do so. We have an excellent track record.