Hospital stays as non-profit

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SARASOTA - Last year state lawmakers passed a bill requiring all public hospitals to undergo an independent financial appraisal.

Based on the findings, hospital boards would then have to decide whether or not the community would benefit more from selling the hospital to a private entity or leaving it as a public non-profit.

Monday Sarasota Memorial unveiled the results of its evaluation, and then made a unanimous decision as to the future of the entire healthcare system.

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System has long been a non-profit organization, and after Monday night's hospital board meeting, it will stay that way.

"This was very fulfilling, to see the outpouring of support from the community, we really didn't anticipate it," said hospital CEO Gwen McKenzie.

Board members heard the results of an independent assessment of the hospital's fair market value that was required by law. Results show that in the appraiser's opinion, the hospital is financially healthy and comparable to other hospitals, both public and private, in the region.

That part didn't seem to surprise the board members. What did was how many people came out in favor of keeping the hospital public.

"I think the crux of the meeting was really the outpouring of community support," said McKenzie.

For almost an hour, one after another spoke of the need to keep the hospital as a non-profit. Not a single voice spoke in opposition.

"I think the fact that they are allows them to have a longer term view and a much better, stronger community vision that supports all of us very well," said Bob Carter, who spoke on behalf of the Senior Friendship Center.

"I can't imagine anybody wanting to change a nonprofit hospital into a for-profit hospital," said supporter Rose Marie Myerson, "it's just one of those things that shouldn't make a profit."

And while the state-mandated appraisal cost the hospital more than two hundred thousand dollars to prepare, Mckenize says the results were worth any frustration.

"At the end of the day we learned something, we were certainly able to demonstrate the results to the community and I think everyone was appreciative of the quality and the cost-effectiveness that we were able to demonstrate," said McKenzie.