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Lee Health: Prepared for the peak

April 15, 2020
By CJ HADDAD ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Lee Health assured residents they are ready to treat patients if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases in Southwest Florida.

Lee Health has begun prepping for a rise in cases for a number of weeks, with officials saying their supplies and number of beds available are in good shape.

"We have developed individualized plans for all hospital campuses (in case of a surge)," President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci said today. "We have talked about several of these surge plans over the last few weeks, and opening the new beds at Gulf Coast Medical Center was the biggest step we've taken to prepare for a potential surge. We are also cross-training nurses who haven't worked in the ICU before so that they can provide additional support, if needed. We have produced HEPA filtration hoods, which create a negative air-flow around the patient to help keep health care workers safe, and we increased the number of ventilators we have on hand for patients who need them. We currently have plenty of ventilators available, with current usage at about 45 percent. If there is a surge that challenges our overall capacity, the state has deployed a field hospital which will open, if needed, to care for overflow patients."

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Antonucci said employees have learned more about symptoms patients might experience following infection other than flu-like symptoms.

"There are other symptoms that may present before signs of respiratory illness," he said. "Some of these less common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and even the loss of the ability to taste and smell. Anyone who experiences any of these less-severe symptoms should self-isolate and monitor their health for other signs of COVID-19 in the following days."

As of this afternoon, Lee Health had 69 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals. A total of 112 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including eight on April 14.

The system has submitted a total of 6,742 specimens for testing and currently has 13 patients under investigation.

Lee Health mobile collection sites on April 13 collected 213 specimens and had a total of 1,002 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChartVideo.

Lee Health has 179 employees quarantined at home. Thirty-one employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Current bed capacity is now at 57 percent with 8 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

Antonucci told a story of a patient who came into Lee Health over the weekend who had suffered in pain at home for days out of fear of contracting the virus at the hospital. The elderly woman had fallen and broken her hip, but remained in bed for a few days before her family decided to bring her to the hospital.

"It remains safe to come to the hospital to receive emergency care," he said. "We take precautions to separate those with symptoms of COVID-19 to ensure that patients coming for other illnesses or injuries are not exposed to the virus. Hospitals around the county are seeing fewer patients come in with heart attack or stroke, and it is widely believed that it is because of coronavirus fears. Delaying the emergency care patients need following a cardiac episode can have devastating long-term effects on their health.

"Our hospitals are safe, and we are prepared to care for anyone who needs it," Antonucci added. "We strongly urge our community to not delay treatment if they experience a medical emergency."



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