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Health systems launch ‘SWFL Stronger Together’

By Staff | Mar 19, 2020

Two local healthcare leaders are joining efforts to combat challenges that global pandemic COVID-19 has presented.

Lee Health and NCH Healthcare System launched their “SWFL Stronger Together” campaign Thursday, and are asking the local community to join them in their efforts.

Gifts to the SWFL Stronger Together fund “will provide critical resources, equipment, and supplies needed” to support doctors and nurses. Donations will help provide additional ventilators, protective gear, mobile units, employee relief and more, according to Lee Health.

“Lee Health and NCH are working hand-in-hand to support our community during this public health crisis,” said Dr. Scott Nygaard, COO at Lee Health. “This fund provides individuals who are able to give the ability to direct support towards our COVID-19 fight.”

President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, said working together with other medical agencies and the public is a collaboration of community, all with the same goals in sight.

“We’re delighted we are able to continuously explore new and innovative ways that our two healthcare systems can strengthen healthcare in Southwest Florida and better serve our community,” said Antonucci, in a release. “During this time where COVID-19 has no borders, our organizations have collaborated in unprecedented ways. The Lee Health and NCH teams have fully embraced the concept of collaboration and community. We are stronger together, and SWFL will benefit greatly from our systems continuing to work together.”

The goal of the campaign is to better provide medical personnel with the tools they need to provide the best treatment to patients at both facilities.

“During this challenging time for our communities, we appreciate the collaboration with our healthcare systems, including Lee Health,” said NCH Chief Executive Officer, Paul Hiltz, in a release. “Now is the time for all of us to pull together to make a difference for our family, friends and neighbors as we continue to care for our community. We appreciate your support. We are all stronger together.”

At Lee Heath, there are currently four patients at one hospital in their care with coronavirus, two of whom are in serious condition, two in “fair” condition. Overall, there have been eight positive tests to come from Lee Health facilities out of 309 specimens sent for testing. Lee Health does not perform testing in-house at this time, but are looking into that option, said Dr. Nygaard.

Sixty-six Lee Health employees are being quarantined at home. Nygaard said thankfully none of those employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

Lee Health is temporarily suspending all visitations, other than “compassionate care situations.”

Nygaard said some exceptions may be made for end of life care, family nurseries and will be limited to two people — none under the age of 12.

“We understand this creates hardships for some, but it is being done to protect our staff, our patients and loved ones,” Nygaard said.

Some non-essential surgeries are also being postponed, Nygaard said.

“Surgeons have been voluntarily modifying their surgical schedules and are postponing those procedures in which a patient’s health or safety will not be harmed by a delay,” Nygaard said. “I want to assure to the community that those patients who need a surgery, will have their surgery.”

The healthcare systems also shared a need for blood donations. Community members can arrange to donate blood by calling Lee Health blood centers at 239-343-2333 or NCH Community Blood Center at 239-624-4120. Donating blood takes about 45 minutes and is a good way to help, as well as show support for our region’s doctors and nurses who are on the frontline.

For more information or to make an online donation to SWFL Stronger Together, visit SWFLtogether.org. Resources through this site also include free telehealth information, hotlines, COVID-19 news and updates, as well as an “Ask the Experts” forum.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj