"Tampa General Hospital is endorsing junk food," announced Elena Cuadros today outside MacFarlane Park Elementary School in Tampa.
Cuadros is a local representative of Corporate Accountability International, a non-profit consumer advocacy group that teamed up with schools kids at the school to encourage the local hospital to kick McDonald's restaurant off their campus on Davis Islands, and choose a healthier alternative.
"It makes no sense for people on one floor to be treated for diet-related diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and see the world's most-recognized junk food brand on another," said Cuadros,
A couple Registered Nurses who work at Tampa General Hospital also voiced their displeasure with the perceived contradiction at the event at the school Thursday morning.
"It's always you know seemed wrong to me that a hospital would have a McDonald's," said Janet Lorenz to ABC Action News on Thursday.
Lorenz works the overnight shift at TGH's neuroscience intensive care unit, during which the main cafeteria, which is filled with healthy options like a salad bar and a smoothie bar, is closed. That cafeteria is supplied by Morrison Healthcare
, which specializes in providing 'wholesome, fresh ingredients seasonally harvested in a socially responsible way."
"So a lot of people if they're busy and they don't have a chance to grab food from the cafe they're stuck," explains Lorenz, who would like to see the McDonald's replaced with a healthier, yet still convenient, 24-hour option.
"You're secluded on an island with minimal resources so we do what we can to survive I guess and that unfortunately is McDonald's at times," adds Sophia Stefano, a Registered Nurse who also works at TGH and attended the small rally on Thursday.
Tampa General Hospital officials agree that that a McDonald's restaurant, selling fatty and greasy food, might not be an ideal choice to be in front of a hospital entrance, where it sits next to the hospital.
But that doesn't mean the situation will be changing any time soon.
The McDonald's has been at Tampa General since 1988, back when it was a public hospital and managed differently.
A hospital spokesperson says TGH now has a legally-binding lease agreement with Caspers Company
, which runs that McDonald's store, and that contract doesn't end until 2023. Caspers Company, operates 53 McDonald's restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area, according to their company website.
"I assume that we know a lot more now about food than we did back then. I think if the decision was to be made again we would have a different outcome," explains John Dunn, a TGH spokesperson.
But maybe not.
Blake Caspers, the CEO of Caspers Company, was elected last year to the board of Florida Health Sciences Center, the governing board for Tampa General Hospital.
Elena Cuadros of Corporate Accountability International calls that arrangement a "conflict of interest."
If TGH were to break their contract with Caspers Company, they would be subject to a lawsuit, according to Dunn.
The Caspers Company also says on their website they are also a "major benefactor" of the Ronald McDonald's House Charities, which runs what the charity calls a "home-away-from-home for families with hospitalized children" near Tampa General Hospital.