Sarasota Memorial has been a trusted cornerstone of this community for nearly a century, through decades of growth and generations of change.
Just as SMH provided lifesaving care to our parents and grandparents through the polio epidemic of the 1940s, our dedicated doctors, nurses and staff worked around-the-clock, in the face of significant personal risk to keep our community safe through the COVID-19 pandemic.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these health care heroes.
Unfortunately, rather than receiving messages of support, our doctors, nurses and other staff at SMH are currently being subjected to a daily onslaught of violent verbal abuse.
As reported in the local press last week, law enforcement is involved. Many of these messages are full of profanity and antisemitic slurs, and some even include graphic death threats.
It is important for Suncoast residents to be aware that these hate-filled messages are being spread as part of a coordinated political campaign in our community led by national activists who have never been patients at Sarasota Memorial and who do not live anywhere near Sarasota or even in Florida.
The small but vocal group behind this campaign is using misinformation about COVID-19 care at Sarasota Memorial to seed distrust in our award-winning, public health system as they strive to strengthen their political standing in Florida.
In addition to personal attacks on our clinicians, they are deploying a range of deceitful tactics, including spreading defamatory social media posts and leaving false reviews of the hospital and its physicians to further their own ideological goals.
These attacks are not only reprehensible, but they also are utterly unfounded, as demonstrated by the detailed information and data about Sarasota Memorial’s COVID care that is publicly available at SMH.com.
Over the past three years, SMH cared for more than 70% of hospitalized COVID patients in Sarasota County. Despite all efforts, COVID was the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. from 2020 to mid-2022.
Sarasota Memorial leaders and staff appreciate the heartfelt stories and concerns shared at recent Hospital Board meetings and understand the grief of those who lost loved ones during this time. Our health system has an important role to play in helping the community heal and reach closure, which is why the SMH board has placed a significant emphasis on transparency and open, clear-eyed reflection.
This was exemplified by the Hospital Board’s request for a comprehensive three-year review of SMH’s COVID care, the findings of which were released in a public report last month.
The report and independent data showed that Sarasota Memorial’s performance throughout the pandemic was strong. COVID patients hospitalized at SMH experienced fewer complications and shorter hospital stays, and most importantly, its COVID mortality rate was nearly 25% lower (better) than state and national hospital benchmarks.
The data speak for themselves and show that the continuing accusations of poor care and patient outcomes at SMH are simply not based in fact.
Rest assured that the 9,000 staff who power Sarasota Memorial will continue doing what they do best — providing nationally acclaimed health care for people living on the Suncoast.
SMH’s clinicians are extraordinarily resilient and will not be deterred by agitators working against the best interests of the health system and community it serves. However, it is unacceptable that their bravery and compassion are being repaid in this way and that their demanding jobs are being made even more challenging. Our doctors and nurses need our support.
Our community should not tolerate the bully tactics of this unprecedented political attack to destroy our public hospital and privatize health care in our community.
This will not always be comfortable, but we cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by a vocal minority who would see our nearly 100-year-old community-owned hospital privatized; its clinicians vilified; and decision-making transferred from a locally elected board to shareholders of a private corporation.
We all have different visions of what the best health care looks like, and our community may not always see eye-to-eye on the detail, but we can all agree that the interests and needs of local residents should remain at the heart of our community-owned health system.
Tramm Hudson is chair of the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board. He is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Sarasota banker and longtime community leader.