A Public Hospital Serving Its Community
In May 2013, the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board voted to keep Sarasota Memorial a not-for-profit public institution, concluding a state-mandated review. As a public hospital, Sarasota Memorial meets strict requirements regarding governance, taxing authority and the services it provides to the community. Here are some frequently asked questions about our value as a public hospital.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who oversees Sarasota Memorial?
Sarasota Memorial is owned and operated by the Sarasota County Public Hospital District, a special, independent taxing authority created by the Florida Legislature in 1949. The district’s boundaries mirror those of Sarasota County. The district is governed by the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, made up of nine unpaid citizens who are elected by voters to represent specific areas of the community as well as the district as a whole. To encourage community representation and participation, local citizens and medical staff are invited to participate in the hospital’s governance by serving on board committees.
The board complies with laws and regulations governing the hospital and elected officials, including Florida’s Government in the Sunshine and Public Records Act, and the Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. Upon election, board members receive extensive orientation from legal counsel and subject matter experts in these laws, as well as topics including finance, quality, audit, governance, corporate compliance and human resources.
The board encourages community participation in the governance of the district to ensure that Sarasota Memorial continues to serve the needs of all citizens of Sarasota County. See more information about the Hospital Board, including profiles of board members.
How and why does the hospital levy taxes?
Charged with serving as a good steward of scarce financial resources, the hospital board derives its authority to levy ad valorem property taxes from legislation passed by the Florida Legislature and approved at a referendum by Sarasota County voters. The board sets the annual tax rate in a transparent process that includes a newspaper ad of the proposed tax rate and two public hearings (also advertised in the local newspaper), where the public may provide comments before the board votes on the final rate. To ensure the district continues to meet the ever-shifting health needs of the entire community, the enabling legislation does not specify that tax revenue must be allocated to one particular program or demographic.
Rather, the district is empowered to levy taxes of up to 2 mills for valid discretionary purposes that include:
- Payment of operating expenses,
- Debt service and capital expenditures,
- To establish, construct, acquire, operate and maintain hospitals and health care facilities for limited or extended care and treatment, and any facilities that are necessary and incidental to providing care to the community.
To that end, the board has made an ongoing commitment to serve as the region’s leader in the provision of top-quality health care and the most sophisticated treatments and technology. The hospital also remains committed to its safety-net mission of providing care to all in need.
How has Sarasota Memorial adapted over the years to meet community needs?
Sarasota Memorial offers Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, and has more than 800,000 patient visits a year. The 829-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services—from urgent care clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to home health and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. We reinvest earnings in patient care for our community, allowing Sarasota Memorial to serve as the region’s health-care safety net while providing advanced treatments and technology. For instance, in 2013, the hospital opened a new nine-story Courtyard Tower, which replaced outdated 1950s- and 1960s-era facilities.
How does Sarasota Memorial improve access to care for all in need?
Sarasota Memorial is the health-care safety net for our community, delivering the lion’s share of the county’s inpatient Medicaid and charity care. We have a long history of developing and maintaining programs that ensure the broadest number of low-income community members have access to the full complement of inpatient and outpatient care, from disease management to the most advanced diagnostic, surgical techniques and specialty care available.
As private hospitals have eliminated services over the years or chosen not to offer essential programs, Sarasota Memorial continues to provide necessary services. Examples of the hospital’s efforts to ensure access to care include the following:
- Our Community Specialty Clinic provides a wide range of free diagnostic, specialty and surgical care to uninsured or underinsured patients “beyond the hospital’s walls.” Patients must prove Sarasota County residency and have a household income at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in the county delivering babies and providing neonatal intensive care. The hospital also has the only inpatient Pediatrics unit in Sarasota County.
- Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in the county providing the full array of inpatient psychiatric services to patients of all ages, expanding an already unprofitable program to meet community needs since other providers have limited their services. It is the only hospital in Sarasota County with a designated Baker Act receiving facility for non-voluntary patients, including those with medical issues and the frail elderly. Sarasota Memorial also is the sole inpatient provider of psychiatric health care to adolescents and children.
- The hospital provides the county’s only trauma care program and the community’s largest and most comprehensive spectrum of emergency specialty care available 24/7. Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital to make a significant investment in the medically underserved community of North Port.
- Sarasota Memorial also is a partner in the Sarasota County Safety Net System of Care Collaboration with the Friendship Centers and the Florida Department of Health. The partnership seeks to fill gaps in care and ensure that uninsured and underinsured community members have seamless access to primary and specialty medical services.
How is Sarasota Memorial transparent and accountable?
Sarasota Memorial is governed and locally controlled by the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board, made up of citizens elected by and accountable to local voters. The Board’s hearings and meetings are subject to “Government in the Sunshine” laws, unlike private hospitals. Residents are encouraged to come to meetings and participate in our efforts to provide top-quality care to our community.
Where can I find financial information?
Our independently audited financial statements are posted on our website for anyone to access, and also appear on the Digital Assurance Certification (DAC) compliance reporting platform for the municipal securities industry.
What is the projected impact of suggestions to turn hospital districts into “indigent care” districts?
Perhaps the Sarasota Herald-Tribune said it best in its December 29, 2011, editorial: “This recommendation could severely limit the ability of public hospitals and districts to invest—based on local needs—in facilities and services that benefit all taxpayers, residents and businesses.” Read the full editorial.