These questionnaire responses were originally published in July for the primary election.
Name: Sharon Wetzler DePeters
Having been in health care since high school 1962, I went on to earn an associate degree in science, a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing at the State University of New York at Buffalo. I’m licensed in Florida and New York as a registered nurse as well as advance practice registered nurse and have remained a dedicated health care professional throughout my 58-year career.
My expertise in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the VA Medical Center was impressive over 15 years as I was honored with many performance awards including the Nurse of the Year award. While there, I served on the FEMA disaster team during the Los Angeles earthquake emergency response, assessing and managing the medical needs of disaster survivors and their resources.
While on contract with a travel nurse agency for five years, I wrote guidelines for policy and procedures for a University Hospital’s Travel Nurse Program.
I retired after 21 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, stationed at Andrews Air Force Base with occupational status in the intensive care unit, operating room and post-anesthesia recovery unit. I now volunteer as an active member of the Medical Reserve Corps of Sarasota, helping Sarasota County to better prepare for and respond to public health crisis and emergencies.
Most recently, having retired from State College of Florida after 14 years as associate professor in the registered nursing program, I’m so proud of the many graduates, now practicing in our community who attended my course lectures on campus combined with my guided clinical instruction at Sarasota Memorial Hospital throughout those years.
Over the past four years, I’ve been honored to serve in my elected official role on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board. My dedication and commitment as health care provider is endless. I remain very active in serving the Sarasota community currently as nurse practitioner in cardiology at Cardiovascular Center of Sarasota with Cardiologist, Dr. M El Shahawy.
Why are you running for office?
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, nurses are key to executing the vision of the board.
Given my knowledge and skills, nurse leaders, such as myself, need to have a greater voice as members on hospital boards.
Serving on the hospital board has given me an opportunity to become involved and to contribute my leadership skills as a health care provider to the success of the Sarasota County Public Hospital. In my role as chair of the Quality Committee, I possess a heightened awareness regarding quality of care and patient safety and strive to provide appropriate, effective safe-care. It should be very comforting for the community to know that there is a well-prepared, well-educated and experienced practicing nurse practitioner on their hospital board.
I ask for your vote, so I may continue to serve on the board especially at this time, more than ever, as we all face the decisions that challenges us during this COVID-19 pandemic.
What are three priorities you hope to accomplish, if elected?
- COVID-19. Sarasota Memorial Hospital continues to work with public health officials at the local, state and national levels to help keep our staff, patients and community safe. The board supports administrations vigilant monitoring and regular updates on COVID-19 news with information related to hospital capacity, COVID-19 testing, number of patients testing positive and the reopening of services. All virus policies continue in effect currently and are subject to change accordingly.
- The opening of the Cancer Institute Cancer Institute, which is underway with the construction of a new radiation oncology center in north Sarasota and an eight-story oncology tower on the main SMH campus. As soon as our door opens, new challenges will emerge — some we anticipate; others will present a chance to learn and grow. We are always looking for ways for improvement for patients, physicians and staff. Continuous improvement is just that — it goes on continually.
- Sarasota Memorial Hospital Venice is slated to open in fall 2021 bringing its five-star, affordable care closer to south county residents with a new state-of-the-art hospital planned for its 65-acre campus on Laurel and Pinebrook roads in Venice. The challenge of expansion is already in discussions and planning.
Compared to other not-for-profit hospital companies nationwide, Sarasota Memorial’s operating margins — 7.3% — are more than three 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?
SMH’s strong operating performance has been driven by strong clinical programs which has grown our volume and market share. The board has supported the growth of these programs, for example: cancer care, neurology, gastroenterology. My clinical background makes me very aware of the importance of such support, and I am supportive of the plans for future replacement of the behavior health facility, so that program can grow in new space that is better suited for the needs of that program.
What skill set will you bring to the board that is not there now?
My affiliation with Sarasota Memorial Hospital for the past 20 years — as a clinical nursing instructor through the State College of Nursing — and as a nurse practitioner at Cardiovascular Center of Sarasota with clinical privileges in the hospital provide me with many valuable relationships with the staff.
I fluently speak their language and understand their challenges. My effective communication with medicine and nursing promotes good policymaking and strategic initiatives. I’m familiar with medical, surgical and nursing procedures as well as current evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, which serves as a framework for clinical decisions that supports our best practice.
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?
The $193 million on the Sept. 30, 2019, balance sheet is a bad debt valuation allowance on accounts receivable. The valuation allowance is booked to state the accounts receivable, many of which have not been adjusted and are on the ledger at gross charges, down to the amount Sarasota Memorial expects to receive on the accounts. Comparison of the valuation allowance to operating margin is not valid; it is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
However, the audited financial statements show in footnote 1(e) that Sarasota Memorial spent $34.3 million in providing care to patients whose account was written off as a bad debt; that is part of Sarasota Memorial’s many services to the community which costs a total of $155.8 million in fiscal year 2019.
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?
Sarasota Memorial’s long-range strategic plan includes the eventual development of a hospital on property we already own in North Port. Over time, as the population grows, I expect that more physicians will move into the North Port community, which is needed for construction of a hospital to be commercially feasible.