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Sarasota Hospital Board At Large: Britt Riner

Meet the candidate.

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  • | 7:15 a.m. September 25, 2020
  • Sarasota
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Name: Britt Riner

Age: 35

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?

  1. Continue to be a leader in the fight against COVID-19. SMH has invested millions of dollars in PPE; SMH was one of the first hospitals in the country to begin three clinical trials; and we’ve been the health care system of choice to receive COVID-19 care, having discharged more than 900 patients who had the virus. The battle is not over, and our community is counting on SMH. We continue to commit our resources and energy in delivering the best in class COVID-19 treatments.
  2. Open the Venice Hospital, the Cancer Institute and the Behavioral Health Pavilion — on time and on budget. The Venice Hospital is set to open with 118 beds but has the capacity to expand to 270. It includes an ER, Labor and Delivery unit, and surgical suites. Taxpayers in South County deserve quality and easily accessible care. The Cancer Institute will include the Radiation Oncology Center (now open!) and the eight-story Oncology Tower on the main campus. Currently, 40% of Sarasotans diagnosed with cancer leave the county to receive treatment. This takes an incredible toll on families, work schedules and mental health. Soon, people will not need to leave to receive the cancer care they need. Mental health is a national crisis in America, and SMH is reimagining how to serve those needs with enhanced dignity and outcomes. This includes building the Behavioral Health Pavilion and expanding services to include not just inpatient but also outpatient services.
  3. Keep quality patient care as our top priority as we expand. As we grow our physical footprint and hire additional staff, we must continue to offer the same culture of quality and compassionate care that is a hallmark of SMH. U.S. News & World Report recently named SMH as one of the top 37 hospitals in the U.S. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has awarded SMH five out of five stars for quality and safety every year its rating system has existed. I want to see SMH continue setting the bar for other health care organizations. As amazing as our facilities are, they don’t win the awards — our people do. SMH is the largest employer in Sarasota County, with almost 7,000 employees. As chair of the Human Resources Committee, it’s important to me that we keep winning awards like we did in 2018 with the Gallup Workplace award, which recognizes organizations creating exceptional workplaces. In this instance, SMH employee survey responses indicated that we significantly outperformed the national average for health care organizations — a huge feat! SMH shouldn’t just be the best place to receive care. I also want it to be the best place for doctors to practice medicine and the best place for people to work.

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.


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