By LOIS KINDLE
Little known to the rest of South Shore community, a group of folks concerned with the issues of today’s seniors meets to discuss their challenges and how they can help.
It’s called Southshore Senior Healthcare Partnership (SSHP), and it meets the first Tuesday of the month at a predetermined site.
“Information sharing in any community is vital,” said Hillsborough County Resource Deputy Jeff Merry. “It’s especially vital when working with a senior community like ours because of the extra care some residents need.
“The world is evolving, and at times it seems like we leave (seniors) behind,” he added. “But if we work together, we can address that and make their lives better.”
The group was founded by Janice Bayruns, owner of FirstLight Home Care, with the help of Merry and Sherri Pitzer, executive director of Inspired Living, last fall.
After establishing its mission and an agenda with them, Bayruns sent an invitation to 90 people representing various organizations caring for seniors, and those who responded began meeting in person. The group had only four such meetings before COVID-19 protocols prevented large gatherings, so its members currently are meeting via Zoom.
Every meeting features a guest speaker. By way of example, during SSHP’s June 4 meeting, its speaker was Dan Bender, CEO of South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center.
After recognizing what he called “the unprecedented measures” each of the members (and their organizations) had taken to protect the community during the pandemic, Bender noted their collective efforts had “made a difference in the spread of COVID-19.”
He then discussed how South Bay Hospital is now “operating in a new environment that will likely change the way we’ve historically operated. We’ve put considerable effort into planning how to slowly and safely reopen hospital services, including resuming the scheduling of surgeries and other procedures under rigorous protocols and precautions to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Bender said he hadn’t anticipated how nervous people would be about seeking treatment during the pandemic and that some folks with very serious illnesses had put off coming to the emergency room for fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Now, that’s beginning to change.
South Bay’s universal protection protocol requires that everyone within the hospital continue to wear masks, and the hospital remains fully equipped with the proper PPE for both patients and staff. And it’s important for area residents to know how hard the hospital staff is working to find better ways of reassuring both patients and their families that it’s safe to return for care.
SSHP members said they appreciated Bender’s presentation and would get the word out to their organizations.
“The depth of support for the community that Dan’s team brings to the table is evident,” said Debbie Caneen, of Sun Towers Retirement Community, who works with the hospital on presenting healthcare symposiums in Sun City Center. “His participation in our SSHP meeting shows how he and the South Bay Hospital team are dedicated to educating both the public and the health care industry.”
“I love Dan’s insight,” said Jill Andrew, of Assisted Living and Memory Care in Brandon, who works with Bender in the health care arena and as member of the board of directors for the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce. “Dan’s reference to the benefit of immediately going into hurricane mode resonated with me, as that is exactly what we did. The focus on always being prepared and being overcautious, if there is such a thing, unfortunately, is not the norm for most organizations.
“And, of course, I loved his Smile with Your Eyes campaign,” she added. “We are fortunate to have Dan as an active community member.”
SSHP is open to any organization involved in supporting seniors, especially those in the field of health care. Some of its members include Our Butterfly Home, Ruskin; The Crossings at Riverview-Senior Living, Riverview; Brandon Mental Health; elder law attorney Emma Hemness, Brandon; Belvedere Assisted Living and Memory Care, Sun City Center; A-Plus Hearing Center, Sun City Center; Palm Garden Skilled Nursing, Sun City Center; Tampa General Medical Group, Sun City Center; and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s all about collaborating and working together for those we serve throughout South Shore,” Bayruns said. “Organizations do not have to physically be in South Shore, they simply have to include service to residents of the South Shore area.”
The next meeting of the Southshore Senior Healthcare Partnership will be at 10 a.m. July 2 on Zoom. Organizations who would like to join should contact Bayruns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-677-2047.