COVID-19 political troubles persist at Florida hospital

Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital continues to face political pressure regarding its COVID-19 policies and treatment protocols, despite a recently published internal review that concluded the hospital saw stronger outcomes among COVID-19 patients than other hospitals. 

Much of the turmoil began after residents elected three "medical freedom candidates" to the hospital's board of trustees last year. Critics have taken aim at the hospital following guidelines from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, which do not recommend the use of certain purported COVID-19 treatments, such as ivermectin. Earlier this month, hospital officials asked police to investigate at least two death threats made against physicians at Sarasota Memorial. Physicians and staff at the hospital faced a slew of abusive threats and emails leading up to and following release of the report, according to hospital spokesperson Kim Savage. 

Over the past few weeks, abusive calls and emails have died down, though Sarasota Memorial continues to face political pressure. According to The New York Times, several right-wing groups planned a news conference ahead of a March 20 hospital board meeting to criticize the "egregious recklessness" surrounding the hospital's treatment protocols and to call for further investigations.

Some clinicians at the hospital worry ongoing pressure will cause staff members to leave and complicate recruitment efforts. 

"Quietly and slowly, it'll erode the medical staff," Jonathan Hoffberger, DO, a cardiovascular surgeon at Sarasota Memorial Hospital who has been the target of some critics, told the Times. "People aren't going to put up with it. They're going to go somewhere else." 

Sarasota Memorial's COVID-19 response review was led by a 70-person panel and compared data such as patient outcomes to that from 1,300 other hospitals in Florida and across the U.S., according to the Times. It found there were fewer COVID-19 deaths and shorter stays among patients at the hospital. 

"Why aren't we moving on?" James Fiorica, MD, the hospital's chief medical officer, told the Times. "These are professionals dealing with life and death situations, and they adjusted all the way along, each year of the pandemic," he said. "And we confirmed in our report that their work was outstanding."


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