SMH staff get death threats on social media over COVID report
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Sarasota Memorial Hospital says its staff has received threatening messages on social media -- including death threats -- over the results of an internal investigation into the hospital’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, SMH spokeswoman Kim Savage denounced “the unfounded attack on our staff and deceitful social media posts and reviews that threaten the reputation of a great hospital, great doctors and the entire community we serve.”
Last month, the hospital released the findings on the internal audit, prompted by citizen complaints that patients’ rights were routinely violated regarding treatment methods and visitation by family members.
The report concluded, overall, that the hospital saved lives, strengthened the community and provided vital information, advice and education.
However, 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.
Sarasota police say the threats have turned up on Telegram, a social messaging app.
Investigators say a public anti-vaccination forum moderated by Dr. Jane Ruby posts articles about doctors who’ve made controversial comments about COVID vaccines.
On Feb. 25, an article was posted a diagnostic radiologist at SMH, stating he must resign from SMH for telling people who refused the vaccine that they should “go before a firing line.” The post generated a slew of negative and obscene comments in a post made from a profile with the name Cheryl Ousey.
Ousey also responded to a post on Feb. 24 referencing SMH’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Hoffberger. “I say put a bullet thru the [obscenity]’s head and be done with it!” the post read.
Police say efforts to identify Ousey have been unsuccessful, and there is not, at this time, enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime.
The full text of the hospital’s statement:
Each day, our physicians and staff are receiving threatening, verbally abusive messages – the vast majority are not from our community or even our state. Many are full of profanity and some include death threats.
The misinformation and misleading messages and social posts are hurtful not only to our physicians and staff, but also to our community.
One of the reasons Sarasota Memorial is a high performing hospital is its ability to attract and retain highly skilled physicians and clinicians. While we are concerned about their end goal to privatize our nearly 100-year-old community-owned hospital, our first priority is addressing the unfounded attack on our staff and deceitful social media posts and reviews that threaten the reputation of a great hospital, great doctors and the entire community we serve.
It is important for the public to be aware of the political motivations fueling this misinformation campaign, to know the hateful messages are coming from people who do not live anywhere near Sarasota County and have never been patients of Sarasota Memorial, so that we as a community can stand up against these bully tactics and be prepared to protect the health of our community and its top ranked health system through the upcoming election season.
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