Manatee County's health care focus groups lacked solid direction

May 30, 2014 

Participants discussed many facets of health care during a "listening session" May 29 hosted by the Manatee County Commission.SARA KENNEDY/

Between April 2008 and March 2009, the movers and shakers of Realize Bradenton put together something called the Realize Bradenton Cultural Plan.

I participated in a piece of it, a focus group, which got together and because of skilled direction from the group leaders, we the local yokels came up with ideas for developing what was affectionately called the "Sandpile" and is now the successful Riverwalk.

When I saw the article in the Bradenton Herald in which the county commissioners announced the same type of focus group, but this time for suggestions on how to ameliorate the health care system in Manatee County, I called and attended Wednesday's event.

After we were given the ground rules, we sat at round tables with signs naming topics of discussion. However, as the groups I was in deteriorated to whining and grousing and negativity, it dawned on me halfway through the get-together that it was a perfect reflection of the chaotic conditions of health care service in Manatee County.

Facilitating from the facilitators, at least at the tables I sat at, was minimal or non-assertive, acoustics were so bad I couldn't hear many of the contributors, and there was a noticeable lack of direction despite handouts suggesting possible topics.

Ironically, no one in authority at the table I sat at called "Health Care Plan" could give a straightforward answer to the question, "Is there such a plan?"

Finally, I asked a county commissioner if there was and she said, "No."

Maybe the next time the commissioners consider another shout-out for citizens' help, they consult first with Realize Bradenton to find out why their plan was so successful.

Granted, health care delivery is not as much fun as the Riverwalk, but I believe it might be a little more critical.

Kathleen Richardson


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