Florida hospital gets death threats after report finds strong COVID-19 response

Several workers at Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital have received death threats and hate-filled calls after the hospital's board approved a report concluding it led a strong COVID-19 response, the Herald-Tribune reported March 3. 

Hospital officials asked police to investigate at least two death threats made against Sarasota Memorial physicians, according to the Herald-Tribune.

According to hospital spokesperson Kim Savage, Sarasota Memorial began facing increased criticism over its handling of the pandemic after residents elected three "medical freedom" candidates to the hospital's board of trustees. Two were elected during the primaries in August. A third was elected in the November general election. 

"Along with their election came a slew of issues. Chief among them was the desire to have the hospital review its COVID performance and issue a public report, which was released last month," Ms. Savage said in a March 3 statement emailed to Becker's

During a meeting in November, self-described "health freedom activists" demanded the board investigate hospital management during the pandemic and criticized leadership for not tailoring care options to include certain purported COVID-19 treatments such as ivermectin. It was the first meeting to include the new board members, and the board ultimately voted to investigate Sarasota Memorial Hospital's protocols during the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 response review was led by a 70-person panel and was published Feb. 21. It concluded Sarasota Memorial "performed strongly across a wide range of assessment areas when compared to other Florida hospitals and U.S. hospitals, and was pivotal to the robust COVID-19 outcomes" in the region. The hospital's board voted 7-2 to accept the panel's report. 

"Leading up to and upon releasing the report, we suddenly found ourselves at the epicenter of what appears to be a well-funded, organized political campaign focused on undermining public trust and privatizing our nearly 100-year-old community health system," Ms. Savage told Becker's

In recent days, physicians and staff have received "threatening, verbally abusive messages," including death threats, Ms. Savage told the Herald-Tribune. "Most of the callers are from outside of our community and state," she said. 

The group is working "to strip the public hospital of both its taxing authority and sovereign immunity shield from large malpractice judgments," according to the Herald-Tribune.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, who is part of the effort, wrote on Twitter after the November meeting: "I attended this meeting and the Sarasota Memorial Hospital took what could have been a rebuilding of trust and further damaged this institution with a 'fox inside the henhouse investigation.' They didn't address the meat of issues that County taxpayers (the real owners of the hospital) wanted to hear. 

"Their little report is not the end of the investigation. More to follow."


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