New program recognizes Manatee County's champions of healthcare

April 1, 2013 

Everyone loves to go the doctor, right? I personally look forward to tests, pokes, prods and diagnoses. The sights, sounds and feel of an exam room are the best. OK, April Fools!

While a visit to the doctor's office is rarely the highlight of anyone's day, the alternative -- no access to quality care when and where you need it -- is exponentially worse.

One key component of access is a robust, successful healthcare industry. We are blessed in Manatee County to have so many dedicated healthcare professionals who not only do their job at a level of excellence but also give of their time, talents and treasures in ways that improve the healthcare system for everyone in our community. These selfless efforts deserve to be lauded.

In just a few weeks, the Chamber will host the inaugural Champions of Healthcare Awards. This new awards program recognizes the achievements and legacy of people, programs and institutions that have contributed to the vibrancy and health of our community through their impact in the healthcare industry. There are few things I can think of that contribute more to our quality of life than our healthcare system.

We received almost 80 nominations and will be announcing the finalists this week. Some of the names will be familiar to you. They are people and institutions whose long history in Manatee County has built the foundation of our healthcare system locally. And, some of the names will be new to you -- either because they have been working quietly for years behind the scenes or are new talent or resources we've attracted to our community.

Please consider attending the Champions of Healthcare Awards Breakfast on April 25 to offer your support and congratulations to the nominees, finalists and winners. It will be at the Fete Ballroom at the Polo Grill & Bar in Lakewood Ranch from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m. For event information, please call 941-748-3411.

The Chamber has had healthcare as a priority for many years. From an advocacy standpoint we successfully recommended that a medical residency program be established in Manatee County to help us attract and keep new, young doctors. We successfully lobbied for a reduction in impact fees for medical facilities. We help created the Manatee Healthcare Alliance and include healthcare related items in our annual state and federal legislative platform. We're also currently focused on engaging more employees in wellness activities through local businesses.

Another key compo

nent of access is the ability for healthcare providers to receive compensation for taking care of Manatee County residents who are in need. The proposed half-penny sales tax for health care services to qualified residents is a big step toward funding care for the working poor, elderly and children.

Replacing the depleted healthcare trust fund with a half-penny sales tax would lessen the burden on Manatee County property owners. It would spread the cost through property tax relief to a much larger pool, including visitors to our area and more of the residents who are accessing these services but do not own property.

I encourage you to educate yourself and then ask the question -- would you rather Manatee County fund needed and/or required healthcare services through a sales tax or property taxes?

Robert P. Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or

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