Hospital skeptics vie for Florida health system board seats

Board seats for one of Florida's largest public health systems make for one more example of how once-obscure offices can become political battlegrounds, The Washington Post reports.

Four conservative candidates are running for seats on the nine-member board overseeing 895-bed Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital on the Aug. 23 primary ballot. Each is running under the theme of "medical freedom," and at least three are skeptical of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Although the candidates have made their ideologies clear, how they plan to wield trustee powers remains largely unexplained. 

One candidate is Victor Rohe, who described his experience with COVID-19 in September as a "bad case" but did not trust physicians at Sarasota Memorial to treat him. Instead, he rented his own oxygen machine and recovered in his living room with input from family and friends. 

"If I went to the hospital, I believed I would die," Mr. Rohe said, pointing to Internet content that fueled skepticism about hospital care for the virus. Mr. Rohe and his fellow contenders were recruited to run for the board by a Sarasota County resident and former emergency room physician who created viral videos about his experience receiving COVID-19 treatment at Sarasota Memorial, claiming the hospital functioned as "a jail."

The public Sarasota Memorial Hospital has board members who represent districts but are elected by voters countywide for staggered four-year terms. Board members hire the CEO and oversee a $1.3 billion annual budget, among other responsibilities. 

Current board members who are up for reelection this year are also Republicans, yet surprised to face a challenge from the party's more conservative wing. 

"The people running will probably regret if they won this position," Darryl W. Henry, who has served on the hospital board since 2008, told The Post. "It is hard. It is time demanding and it requires deep intellectual thought and requires you gaining knowledge of the entire medical process, and entire medical financial process."

Read The Post's story in full here.

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