Sarasota Memorial releases COVID performance report

Sarasota Memorial Hospital's response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years has...
Sarasota Memorial Hospital's response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years has saved lives, strengthened the community and provided vital information, advice and education, an internal report released Tuesday said.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years has saved lives, strengthened the community and provided vital information, advice and education, an internal report released Tuesday said.

But the report was critical of the hospital’s visitation restrictions for families during the height of the pandemic, calling them “detrimental to the spiritual and emotional well-being of patients and their loved ones.”

The report also noted many patients stayed longer than necessary because of a lack of space in non-acute care facilities; many patients were also had to be readmitted because of preexisting and chronic health conditions.

In all, Sarasota Memorial treated more than 13,400 COVID patients and processed 317,611 COVID tests. Of those patients, 91% survived; 11% needed ventilator support.

The report was prompted by citizen complaints during a hospital board meeting in November that patients’ rights were routinely violated regarding treatment methods and visitation by family members.

The report was compiled by the hospital board’s Quality Committee, which was charged to look at “specific, individual patient care concerns, as well as to take a broad look at care throughout the pandemic, to review the lessons learned and plan for the future,” SMH spokeswoman Allison Smith said in November.

The Quality Committee includes physicians and clinical leaders, as well as all current board members. The committee also used data from Premier, Inc., an independent quality improvement organization used by 1,300 hospitals as well as state and federal agencies.

During that November board meeting, three newly elected board members were targeted by the Sarasota County Democratic Party for allegedly attempting to politicize public health care. The three board members -- Patricia Maraia, Bridgette Fiorucci, and Victor Rohe -- campaigned on the platform of “medical freedom,” an idea championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis during the COVID-19 pandemic, which rejected vaccine and mask mandates in favor of an individual’s right to choose their course of treatment.

Calling three newly elected board members “freedom-from-science extremists,” JoAnne DeVries, chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party, said the three were “threatening the integrity and future” of the hospital.

At that meeting, Jenny Naylor said she came from Boston to talk about her mother, who died of COVID-19-related complications at SMH.

Naylor said her mother, while here on vacation, was hospitalized with COVID-19. She said doctors began administering Actemra, a medication authorized by the FDA for emergency use for COVID-19 patients. Two days later, Naylor says her mother’s liver began failing.

Her lungs began filling with fluid, and another drug, Remdesivir, was prescribed. Three days later, Naylor said, her mother’s kidneys began to fail. “Antibiotics were given, seven days after she asked for them,” Naylor told the board.

Her father asked doctors to treat his wife with ivermectin, a controversial drug touted by some but rejected by most medical experts at the time. Doctors at Sarasota Memorial, Naylor said, refused to administer ivermectin.

Naylor’s mother died 12 days after being admitted.

The report notes that Sarasota Memorial staff continues to not recommend or use ivermectin for hospitalized COVID patients because it has not been proven effective.


  • COVID mortality rates at SMH were better than the state and national benchmarks. An independent analysis showed the hospital mortality rate was 24% better that expected.
  • COVID complications and hospital stays were lower than state ad national averages.
  • COVID readmissions were higher than the state and national averages. The highest readmission rate was during the deadly Delta wave, when the hospital discharged patients earlier to free up beds for more severely ill patients.
  • Shortages of testing sites and supplies led to longer hospital stays. Delayed test results led to longer hospital stays whick put a strain on bed space, protective equipment and supplies.
  • Treatment guidelines evolved quickly as doctors learned more about the virus. SMH participated in clinical trials and expanded access programs that gave its patients earlier access to promising treatments, include monoclonal antibody therapy, remdesivir and convalescent plasma.
  • SMH cared for 70% of all COVID patients in Sarasota County over the course of the pandemic.

Among the recommendations listed in the report are:

  • The formation of a Health Emergency Response Committee to help the hospital effectively and efficiently respond to future operational challenges and public health events. the committee would include medical staff leaders, supply personnel, food services, and patient advocates.
  • Continued development of home health and post-hospital services and resources to reduce the length of hospital stays, and strengthen the health care system’s resilience.
  • Deployment of more staff and technology to improve communication with families, and between patients and their loved ones when they cannot be physically together.
  • To better communicate the ways stakeholders can communicate with medical staff leadership, senior administration and the hospital board.