TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A group of thousands of doctors is calling on Tampa General Hospital to ditch fast food – and they’ve put their message on display in a big way.
An eye-catching and controversial new billboard popped up in Tampa this week with the message, “I’m Not Lovin’ the Ventilator” – a play on the famous McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan. The ad also shows a patient in a hospital bed and states, “high-fat fast food can contribute to obesity, putting COVID patients at risk for intubation.”
The billboard was sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The nonprofit group of 17,000 doctors, including more than a thousand Florida physicians, is using the ad to call on Tampa General Hospital to get rid of McDonald’s. The fast-food chain has a restaurant on the first floor of the hospital.
“Ask @TGHCares to go #FastFoodFree!” the billboard message reads.
According to a news release from the committee, the group wrote to hospital leadership, including CEO John Couris, before putting the billboard up. They also filed a complaint with Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County Health Officer Douglas Holt, arguing that the hospital should provide healthier, plant-based meals instead of fast food.
“High-fat fast food like beef burgers and milkshakes can cause weight gain, and COVID-19 patients who are overweight or obese are more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation,” Susan Levin, MS, RD, of the Barnard Medical Center and the Physicians Committee said in a statement. “It is urgent that hospitals, including Tampa General, provide plant-based meals that can help people prevent and even reverse obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other diet-related diseases that can put COVID-19 patients at risk for severe illness.”
8 On Your Side reached out to Tampa General Hospital about the billboard. In a statement, a spokesperson said the hospital is committed to meeting the nutritional needs of its patients, employees and visitors.
“Our chefs and dietary team carefully plan wholesome, balanced meals, offering a variety of healthy, nutritious menu items on a daily basis to provide everyone with a range of choices including vegan, vegetarian and lighter options,” a spokesperson said. “In addition to the many food options our chefs provide, Tampa General has contracts with additional food service providers, including McDonald’s, to offer convenient meal options. Tampa General provides a wide variety of food options, and we believe our team members, physicians and visitors can make their own choice in what they choose to eat while on campus.”
McDonald’s also released a statement that said food options are a personal choice.
“McDonald’s provides families with a variety of choices to meet their needs, bringing families together to share moments and create lasting memories. We believe selecting meals for individuals and their families is a personal choice,” the statement said, in part. “We are proud to serve team members, physicians and visitors at Tampa General Hospital and look forward to continuing to serve this community for years to come.”
The 10-foot tall, 36-foot wide billboard went up Tuesday on Adamo Drive near 22nd Street. It’s scheduled to stay up through Feb. 12, the Physicians Committee said.