- August 15, 2022
Name: Britt Riner
Family: Married with three children, ages 4.5 years, 3 years and 8 months
Bio: I was born and raised in Sarasota and am blessed with a family legacy of service. My mother taught in the Sarasota public schools for 34 years, and my father served in the Army Special Forces. After my dad returned from Vietnam, the VA designated him 100% disabled, so my family knows the need for quality health care. I went to Duke on a full scholarship thanks to a gift from Bill and Melinda Gates and earned a master's degree at Stanford. I’ve worked at three publicly traded companies and multiple nonprofits across the U.S., but ultimately, my heart led me home to Sarasota, where my husband and I are raising our three kids, all born at SMH. I have my own business, and I serve as a community volunteer and leader. I have served as the president of the Junior League of Sarasota, an almost 700-women-strong civic organization, and as the board chair of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the philanthropic partner to Sarasota County Schools. I'm a 2016 graduate of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Sarasota, and in 2018, I was awarded the honor of joining SRQ Media’s Women in Business Leadership Circle.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for reelection to the Hospital Board because I love Sarasota, and I care deeply for its welfare. Specifically, 1) I champion the relentless focus on fighting COVID-19; 2) I’m an advocate for SMH expansion, so we can meet our growing community’s health needs, such as building the Venice Hospital, the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute and the Behavioral Health Pavilion; and 3) I’m focused on maintaining our best-in-class patient outcomes and experience.
What are three priorities you hope to accomplish if elected?
Compared to other not-for-profit hospital companies nationwide, Sarasota Memorial’s operating margins — 7.3% — are more than 3 times better than the national average. What, if anything, would you suggest the hospital and hospital board should be doing differently to improve the hospital system’s nationally recognized operations?
At SMH, we set high goals and compare ourselves to national centers of excellence, not the national average of other not-for-profit hospitals. Indeed, due to the COVID-19 crisis as well as financial management problems, 42 hospitals in the U.S. had closed or entered into bankruptcy by June of this year, and several more are expected to follow suit in the coming months. Because of SMH’s wise stewardship, this is not our story. Our goal at SMH is to generate sustainable overall margins, so that we can continue to offer services to the community that have little to no margin, and so those additional funds can be reinvested into our community in the form of capital expense projects, enabling large-scale missions, such as our new Venice Hospital, Cancer Institute and the Behavioral Health Pavilion.
What skill set will you bring to the board that is not there now?
I will continue to contribute my expertise in strategic planning, board governance and community engagement.
My professional background in strategic planning at publicly traded companies informs my approach at SMH: I know we have to ask good questions, research the issues, set SMH’s long-term objectives, then prioritize each quarter and year to achieve our bold goals to advance our community’s health care.
I’m also an experienced board chair and a graduate of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Board Institute. I understand a board member’s role of overseeing the finances and strategic plan and ensuring we have the right management team to execute it.
I’m a believer in community engagement — truly listening to our citizens, so we can understand their health care needs and determine what is in the best interest of our patients. Our hospital offers critical services to every generation, and my family has certainly experienced that. I know what it’s like to be a labor and delivery patient and to hold my sick child in the ER. I also waited by my mother’s bedside as she endured major surgery at SMH, and I held my grandfather’s hand as he passed away after his battle with cancer.
For me, the work of Sarasota County Public Hospital Board Member is professional and the calling to do the work is personal.
SM Health Systems reported $193 million in uncollected/bad debts last fiscal year. That’s 20% of total revenues and twice what the hospital system generates in operating profits. What’s your comment and reaction to that?
Much of the $193 million bad debt is at gross charges and has not been adjusted for what SMH expects to collect, whereas the revenue numbers have been adjusted for what SMH collects. So your above analysis is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
SMH’s No. 1 charge is to meet our community’s health care needs. It does this through providing more than $150 million in community care services, such as offering diagnostic, primary, specialty and surgical care to uninsured or underinsured patients. Also, SMH is the only hospital in the county providing the full array of inpatient psychiatric services to patients of all ages, expanding an already unprofitable program to meet community needs since other providers have limited their services.
Because SMH is led by its mission, SMH offers services that no other hospital in the county is willing to offer. SMH is the only hospital delivering babies (3,500+ per year!) and providing neonatal care. It is the only inpatient pediatrics unit in the county. SMH is the only hospital to make a significant investment in the medically underserved community of North Port. Important to note, SMH provides the county’s only trauma care program and the community’s largest and most comprehensive spectrum of emergency specialty care available 24/7.
SM Health System is opening its new hospital in Venice in 2021. What’s your view on whether SMH should have a hospital in North Port?
Building a hospital in North Port is part of SMH’s long-term strategic plan, and I’m excited to continue executing that plan. Part of SMH’s strategy involves building a physician base to support the needs of a future North Port hospital. Opening the Venice hospital is a key step in preparing for a future North Port campus because it will attract more doctors to the area. In addition to being a state-of-the-art hospital, the Venice campus is a significant benefit to South County taxpayers who will now have a hospital closer to home: The Venice campus is 16.5 miles south (about a 30-minute drive) from the original campus.