Sharon Wetzler DePeters, a Republican, will face Democrat Kevin Connelly in the general election.
Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.
Occupation: Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)
Previous political offices: None
About: Born and educated in Buffalo, N.Y., I received a Bachelor of Nursing and Master of Nursing degree at the University of Buffalo. Currently licensed in Florida and New York as both a Registered Nurse and Adult Registered Nurse Practitioner, I remain a dedicated healthcare professional throughout my 33-year career.
Years of experience in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the VA Medical Center were exceptional, being honored over the years with many performance awards, including “The Nurse of the Year Award.” I served on the FEMA disaster team during the Los Angeles Northridge earthquake emergency response, assessing and managing the medical needs of disaster survivors and their resources.
While on contract in Denver with a travel nurse agency, I wrote guidelines for policy and procedures at a private 1000-bed hospital’s Travel Nurse Program.
I spent 21 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, stationed at Andrews Air Force Base with occupational status in Operating Room, Intensive Care Unit and Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit. In 2007, I retired as Major.
I have volunteered for last eight years as an active member of the Medical Reserve Corps of Sarasota, helping Sarasota County residents to better prepare for and respond to public health emergencies within our community as well as surrounding areas of need.
Most recently, I retired after 14 years as Associate Professor at State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota in the Associate Science in Nursing (ASN) Program. I’m so proud of the many graduates, now practicing Registered Nurses in our community, that attended my course lectures on campus combined with my guided clinical instruction at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Free time is spent enjoying family visits with my two grown children and three grandchildren. I currently reside in Nokomis for the last 18 years with my husband and remain very active in the Sarasota community in my role as a Nurse Practitioner in Cardiology.
Why do you want to serve on the hospital board?
I have much respect for the board members’ expert leadership and quality performance. Each member brings their individual expertise to form a diverse partnership of professionals that work together to provide the community with an exceptional healthcare system that is nationally recognized for its service and achievements.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Future of Nursing Campaign for Action advocates for a nurse in every boardroom. I agree. “A nurse on the board is a voice to be heard.” I want to be that voice, as a patient advocate first and foremost.
Here’s what I can offer: As an experienced healthcare provider and educator for close to 40 years, I came out of medical / nursing retirement in order to run for this position on the board and strongly believe with that knowledge and expertise, I can offer a unique perspective to the healthcare needs of the community.
What qualifies you to oversee the fiscal health of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System?
As qualifiers, let’s begin with my honesty, integrity, creative ingenuity, leadership and respect for life that will be key components in my decision making to keep the cost down and the quality of care high. I’ll focus on keeping revenues and expenses in balance, managing operational activities and expenses within the computed margin while always keeping patient care as primary.
What is your position on how the hospital board should use and manage its taxing authority? Do you have a position on whether the current millage rate should be raised or lowered?
FYI: Only 8% of tax dollars went to SMH according to the 2015 Annual Report by Bill Furst, Sarasota County Property Appraiser. I believe the millage rate is between about right and in some aspects somewhat too low.
I intend to continue serving the community health needs within the main hospital and the area clinics. The tax monies come from the community; consequently, those monies should be utilized to give back to the community with respect to services provided.
If elected, what do you believe should be the top priority of the board during your term?
Top priority is to focus on keeping SMH’s current national status of excellence intact. This will and should evolve around many if not all of the core areas listed on the SMH website. In addition, my priority is and always will revolve around providing each PATIENT, as a consumer of health care, the best quality and quantity of health care possible.
A proposed hospital in Venice is just one of the ways SMH has attempted to grow over the past few years. Do you favor or oppose pursuing a hospital in Venice? Why? What is your position on building a hospital in Sarasota County's largest city, North Port?
I totally agree with the current plan for SMH to pursue a hospital in Venice and or the near proximity of North Port in order to meet the growing population’s 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.”
What is your position on doing what Venice and other communities have done — selling and privatizing the hospital system and using the proceeds in a community foundation?
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.