In 1982, Sarasota Memorial Hospital gave its patient rooms a face-lift to make them look more like a cozy, private bedroom with wallpaper, complete with a TV. Not only was Alex Quarles the first person to use one of the updated rooms, but she was also the first mother to have a child in the hospital’s brand new labor-and-delivery room.
“I’ve been with the foundation for 17 years — my heart goes back to ‘memorial,’” says Quarles, president and CEO of the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation. “There’s so much that this hospital does for the community.”
Built in 1925, the hospital is celebrating 85 years of service this year to the Sarasota community. To kickoff its anniversary, Sarasota Memorial staff, volunteers, philanthropists and community leaders will gather Jan. 21, for the official “Breaking Ground” ceremony for the hospital’s new Courtyard Tower.
The $186 million nine-story, state-of-the-art tower, scheduled to open in 2013, will replace the oldest wings of the hospital. Designed as a comfortable, healing environment with private rooms, the 235,000-square-foot tower will feature the most advanced hurricane proofing available and an array of patient-centered amenities and technology. The levels of the new building will include Levels 1 and 2: lobby, patient reception, registration, pre-admission, discharge, volunteer office and the security department; Level 3: mechanical and electrical; Level 4: neonatal intensive care unit; Level 5: labor-and-delivery suites; Level 6: medical and surgical; Levels 7 and 8: cardiac; and Level 9: orthopedics.
“When I came to Sarasota Memorial five years ago, if you took a snapshot of the system, it was financially hurting,” says Chief Operating Officer David Verinder. “From a patient standpoint, it’s always been a high-quality facility, but the facilities were really in need of replacement and probably should have been replaced 10 years ago. We put in an aggressive financial plan and now have the ability to build a new patient tower for the community.”
Verinder says one quality that makes SMH stand out is its cardiac programs. The hospital uses the da Vinci Surgical System, a pioneer in surgical capabilities and minimally invasive treatment options used in specialties such as urology, gynecology, cardiothoracic, general surgery and head and neck.
“This is the highest-quality, highest-technical system in the country,” Verinder says. “We are also the only hospital in the county that has a Level 3 NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). If we didn’t have that, any time we had a baby in distress, whether a newborn or 6-month-old, they would have to be taken to Tampa. We’re very proud of our mission services and what we have done for the community.”
Sarasota Memorial recently started a women’s oncology genetic counseling program and there’s been discussion of providing a center for nursing research education. One of the hospital’s milestones is reaching its magnet nursing status, the highest level of nursing credentials that a hospital can receive.
“Nurses so adore this hospital that they stay here for 25 to 30 years,” Quarles says. “The fact that there’s such amazingly forward thinking between the physicians, admin and hospital board is very significant for a community hospital.”
Both Verinder and Quarles anticipate that the hospital will become more integrated with its physician offices in the 21st century though electronic medical records, which would allow physicians who travel to pull up their patients’ charts online and review blood and pathology from anywhere in the world without the patient having to be seen by that physician.
“At the end of the day, I love what we do,” Verinder says. “We are there to service the community and have an incredible product. Quite frankly, the fact that we can afford to build a $250 million facility (campus improvement project) is huge.”
AT A GLANCE
Then (1925) Now (2010)
Staff members 15 4,000
Beds 32 806
Physicians 12 741
Yearly inpatient admissions N/A 25,000
Yearly outpatient and emergency visits N/A 442,000
Sarasota Memorial Hospital was renamed from Sarasota Municipal Hospital in the ’50s to honor World War II veterans, who used Lido Beach as a training ground before leaving on their tours of duty.
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]