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SMH Approves BayCare Alliance

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Sarasota Memorial Hospital

The Sarasota County Public Hospital Board voted today to enter into a 5-year strategic alliance with the not-for-profit BayCare Health System to help secure a strong future for Sarasota County’s public health system and the community it serves.

The strategic move is intended to take advantage of economies of scale and provide a broader range and more cost-effective health care services through shared resources and greater leverage in negotiating contracts and the purchase of supplies. 

It’s important to note that the alliance is not a sale, lease or merger, said Dick Merritt, chairman of the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board.  He said Sarasota Memorial retains its status as an independent public hospital and will continue to be governed by its 9-member elected hospital board. 

“Sarasota Memorial is a valuable community asset, and this alliance will help ensure it stays exactly that,” Merritt said. “We are not changing hands or the way we are governed – Sarasota Memorial will continue to operate for the benefit of Sarasota County citizens and remain committed to serving our community’s needs.” 

The strategic alliance is the result of nearly three years of research and planning by senior leaders and the hospital board as they sought ways to protect Sarasota Memorial from the financial impact of legislative reforms transforming the health care industry.  

“Although we’re very strong now, we have to look down the road five and 10 years from now,” Merritt said. “In the current climate, it’s more important than ever to forge relationships that make you stronger and better able to compete in this uncertain marketplace.”

Under the agreement, slated to take effect in January, Sarasota Memorial and BayCare will take advantage of their leadership teams’ combined expertise to collaborate and manage the alliance of two strong systems. 

Most of the changes will take place behind-the-scenes, with no transfer of assets or changes that affect patients or physician referrals. The biggest change will be in cost savings and how leaders invest in growth opportunities moving forward. During the next 90 days, Sarasota Memorial leaders will work with BayCare on an action plan to present to Sarasota Memorial’s hospital board in 90 days. Once approved, the action plans could take several years to implement.  

If the partnership does not result in the expected benefits, including at least a $10 million return by year three, the agreement includes a clause that allows Sarasota Memorial to terminate the alliance after five years; if successful, however, the contract includes an option to renew for an additional five years.

In reviewing potential partners for an alliance, Merritt said the board chose BayCare because it is a community health system with the same not-for-profit mission as Sarasota Memorial.  Composed of 10 not-for-profit hospitals, outpatient facilities and services such as imaging, lab, behavioral health and home health care, BayCare is the leading community-based health system in the Tampa Bay area. Its family of hospitals are: Mease Countryside, Mease Dunedin, Morton Plant, Morton Plant North Bay, St. Anthony’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Joseph’s Children’s, St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, St. Joseph’s Women’s, and South Florida Baptist.

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