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'Health freedom' activists renew call to investigate Sarasota Memorial's COVID procedures

 Hospital board members listen to a speaker
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Sarasota Memorial Hospital board members listen to a speaker during Monday's meeting.

But the hospital board chairman believes there are not enough votes on the board to force an independent investigation.

"Health freedom" activists filled the boardroom at Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Monday in an effort to change the facility's policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But their calls for an independent investigation will likely be denied.

The calls come after the hospital released a three-year reviewin February of how it did during the pandemic. The report said the hospital’s COVID-19 death rate was 24% lower than national benchmarks.

 Board chairman Tramm Hudson
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Sarasota Memorial Hospital board chair Tramm Hudson says he doesn't believe there's enough interest by the members to start another investigation.

Still, many of the people in the audience assailed hospital officials for supposedly stifling doctors from providing alternative treatments such as ivermectin. Many also didn't like the hospital following federal pandemic guidelines.

But after the meeting, board chair Tramm Hudson said he doesn't believe there's enough interest by the members to start another investigation.

"This has certainly been something of interest to the community, and I think that as an elected body, we need to listen to the citizens," Hudson said. "And as I've said many times, we will stay here as late as it takes, because they do make some good points. And I think that it's positive that we receive that."

Retired physician Stephen Guffanti was among those promoting a "health freedom" agenda. He shared a room in the hospital's emergency room with a fellow COVID-19 patient. Guffanti said he was put into solitary confinement by hospital staff after speaking on behalf of the other patient.

He echoed calls for a third-party investigation, saying it "wasn't political, but life and death."

"The COVID-19 response report said the hospital protocol told the doctors what drugs to use," Guffanti said. "Yet, the doctors denied they were told what to do. Who do you believe? Either way, you've lost the community's trust."

Board members said there had been death threats against doctors and hospital staff since the report was released, but the abusive messages have since tapered off.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.