SARASOTA — Doctors and nurses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital are sounding the alarm over a toxic work environment, including threatening and abusive behavior by senior physicians. Staff members also tell The Florida Standard that patient safety is at risk, with overworked personnel and dangerous treatment decisions.
For fear of reprisal, staff members at Sarasota Memorial spoke to The Florida Standard under condition of anonymity.
One of the most remarkable incidents involves a complaint against Dr. Daniel B. Case, who was accused of harassment by a staff member concerning the employee’s choice of not getting vaccinated, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Florida Standard.
Dr. Case, the staff member alleges, had said that unvaccinated people were “the reason why people are dying and why COVID is spreading.”
“When you guys get fired then we'll all have a party and Darwinism will do its work," Dr. Case allegedly also told the staff member according to the complaint, which was addressed to the hospital’s president, Lorrie Liang.
But Dr. Case did not stop there, the staff member claims.
“They should take you guys to the firing line,” Dr. Case allegedly said.
While some of Dr. Case’s alleged comments appear to revolve around his desire to terminate unvaccinated employees from their positions at Sarasota Memorial, his use of the phrase “firing line” could have a more sinister meaning. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of “firing line” is “a line from which fire is delivered against a target.”
The disposition of the complaint against Dr. Case, which stemmed from a September 10, 2021 conversation, is unclear.
The Florida Standard attempted to reach Dr. Case for comment, but did not receive a response as of the time of publication. Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s press office did not address a request for more details on the complaint and what actions were taken in relation to it, if any.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
According to hospital employees that The Florida Standard spoke with, the complaint against Dr. Case is not the only example of Sarasota Memorial’s toxic work climate, which employees say is largely driven by the leadership of the chief of staff, Dr. Jonathan Hoffberger.
Several staff members claim that Dr. Hoffberger promotes a hostile work environment where abusive behavior is tolerated. One physician said that Dr. Hoffberger – a cardiac surgeon – “yells at unvaccinated patients” and that he “refuses to perform open-heart surgery” on patients who have not taken the mRNA shot.
The insider accounts they gave The Florida Standard unfold as state lawmakers and Governor Ron DeSantis seek to enshrine so-called “healthcare freedom” measures in state law.
RISKS TO PATIENT SAFETY
A nurse who works with COVID-positive patients tells The Florida Standard that the work situation at Sarasota Memorial is “extremely overwhelming for the nurses.”
According to the nurse, remdesivir is still being used at the hospital for treating patients diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. The nurse states that it is beyond any doubt that the drug has a severely negative impact on patients.
“After three years, they are still using remdesivir, even though it does nothing to improve patients’ health. After only one dose you can see how their kidney function drops. It’s being used even on people who are at the hospital for completely unrelated health issues. If they test positive for COVID, they are put on remdesivir,” the nurse says.
MADE LISTS OF UNVACCINATED STAFF
One nurse says that in 2021, hospital management made lists of nurses who had rejected the COVID-19 vaccine. She claims that unvaccinated nurses were called into a room, where they were subject to a “re-education session” led by other staff, where the intent was to pressure them to take the shot.
That same year, the hospital sent out letters to staff, indicating that those who refused to take the mRNA shot would be subject to a number of restrictions – even different color-coded stickers on their badges. The stickers, however, were never implemented.
THE CHIEF OF STAFF ON FACEBOOK
Sarasota Memorial’s top physician, Dr. Hoffberger, is very active on Facebook, where many of his posts are focused on the promotion of mRNA vaccination and other COVID-19 measures, such as mask wearing.
In several Facebook posts, the doctor ridicules those who may question the narrative around COVID-19 and the injections.
His posts, often of a condescending nature, indicate that he thinks that only “experts” are able to do “research” and decide on what should go into people’s bodies.
Moreover, Dr. Hoffberger has shared statements that peer-reviewed studies have since demonstrated to be false. For example, he published a post indicating that those with antibodies against COVID-19 still must be vaccinated. A peer-reviewed study from July 2022, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, states that natural immunity against COVID-19 offers better protection than vaccination.
“Naturally acquired immunity confers stronger protection against infection and symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 2-dose vaccine-induced immunity,” the authors of the study conclude.
CONCERNS OVER SUSPICIOUS DEATHS
In August of 2021, members of the public raised concerns over suspicious deaths occurring at Sarasota Memorial Hospital resulting from COVID-19 treatment protocols.
Two experts in the medical field claim to have experienced serious malpractice firsthand that summer and felt compelled to speak out. One of them is Dr. Stephen Guffanti, a retired emergency room physician who – as a patient at SMH – managed to sign himself out of the hospital out of fear for his life. The other is Michelle Tavares, executive director for Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a high-profile critic of the COVID-19 agenda.
Guffanti and Tavares helped organize a protest outside Sarasota Memorial Hospital and soon many other patients and relatives of patients who had experienced harmful or neglectful COVID treatment at SMH joined in.
NEW BOARD ELECTED
Sarasota Memorial is one of few publicly funded hospitals in Florida. As such, its board is chosen by county residents. The public demanded that a new board be elected, and an investigation to be opened into hospital practices. A medical freedom slate was created, composed of Dr. Joe Chirillo, a physician; registered nurses Patricia Maraia and Bridgette Fiorucci; and Victor Rohe, a former lieutenant with the New York City Police Department.
“I am running as part of a team of four candidates for the purpose of bringing transparency to the board. They bring needed medical experience, and my experience helps me distinguish between an investigation and a cover-up,” the former NYPD lieutenant said in an interview before the election – adding that he supervised the work of 39 detectives as head of operations for his precinct.
All medical freedom candidates except for Dr. Chirillo won in the August 2022 election, representing a mandate from the community to immediately launch an investigation.
In November that same year, at the first public meeting with the new board, victims’ families and friends arrived at the board meeting to tell their stories about the alleged malpractice.
“They were drowned out by doctors who had been encouraged to attend. The public pushed for an independent review, but instead a secret internal committee was formed for the hospital to investigate itself,” says medical freedom organizer Justin Harvey.
Some harrowing testimonies from family members who claim gross misconduct by Sarasota Memorial staff – even leading to the death of their loved ones – can be heard towards the end of the video recording of the hospital board’s on November 29, 2022.
BLOCKED INDEPENDENT REVIEW
Newly elected board member Victor Rohe called for an independent investigation, but another delegate, Britt Riner, called to table it, stating that they should give the Quality Committee the first opportunity to conduct an internal review – with results to be presented at the February 21, 2023 meeting.
On her website, Riner states that she is a Republican and a “lifelong Sarasotean.” She also recounts an impressive educational background, which she embarked on at Duke University “on a full-tuition scholarship funded by Bill and Melinda Gates.” We also learn that Riner went to “Washington, DC for work” and that she holds a Master’s degree from Stanford University.
Riner chairs the Quality Committee, which is composed of all members of the board, the chief of staff – which would be Dr. Hoffberger – the immediate past chief of staff, the chief of staff-elect, and two other members of the medical staff to be appointed by the chief of staff.
In preparation for the Tuesday meeting, Dr. Hoffberger has ordered signs to be placed in staff areas of the hospital, encouraging doctors and nurses to attend.
“Support your colleagues, the community, and SMH. Seating will be very limited and there is information suggesting those supporting the Medical Freedom (Ivermectin/HCQ) and Anti-Vaccination Movement will be there in an attempt to fill the seats in the auditorium. Your presence at this meeting is important. Your hospital’s future depends on it,” one of Dr. Hoffberger’s signs reads.
According to sources inside the hospital, the effort to fill up the hearing with vaccine and COVID protocol loyalists is Dr. Hoffberger’s own initiative, intended to prevent the public from speaking at the meeting.
DEMANDING A FULL INVESTIGATION
One of the medical freedom activists who will be attending the board meeting is Tanya Parus, president of the Sarasota County chapter of the organization Moms for America.
Parus says that she will demand a fully independent investigation in Tuesday’s board meeting, to include the following areas:
- Details of COVID protocol
- Analysis regarding protocols that were considered and rejected
- Analysis of potential impact of financial incentives and legal indemnification under the CARES Act and PREP Act on patient care: do they skew protocol away from patient welfare and toward profit? (20% bonus on total hospital bill for remdesivir use can reach $100,000+ in some cases for just one patient)
- Review of patient complaints submitted to the hospital
- Why the bureaucracy is severing the doctor/patient relationship for COVID care.
- Analysis of use of sedatives and physical restraints
- Analysis of informed consent
- Analysis of denial of lifesaving, FDA approved drugs
“From what we know, it seems that most board members want to sweep any call for investigation under the rug. We hope they will realize that their duty is best served by restoring the hospital’s reputation through an independent investigation,” Tanya Parus says.
SARASOTA MEMORIAL RESPONDS
The Florida Standard spoke with the hospital chief of staff, Dr. Hoffberger, who declined to comment or hear the staff members’ claims and allegations included in this article.
We also reached out for comment to Sarasota Memorial’s press office. Public Relations Manager Kim Savage provided the following statement, published here below in its entirety:
“Much of the misinformation being spread in the community is designed to erode trust in a health system that has taken care of this community for nearly a century. The allegations are unfounded, untrue and undermine the award-winning patient care Sarasota Memorial and its dedicated and diligent physicians and staff are known for delivering. A review of how we responded to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic demonstrates the successful care that SMH has provided COVID patients since 2020, with clinical outcomes that outperformed national and regional hospital benchmarks and saved thousands of additional lives.”
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