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Lee Health setting up triage tents outside system emergency rooms

By Staff | Mar 20, 2020

The number of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are under the care of Lee Health increased from four on Thursday to six on Friday, said President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, in a media call Friday afternoon.

Since March 6, Lee Health has sent 507 specimens for coronavirus testing, yielding 10 presumptive positive results.

This is Lee Health’s count and doesn’t include the total number of positive cases in the community. The Florida Department of Health is reporting the total count on its dashboard.

“As a nation and a community we are facing unprecedented challenges,” Antonucci said Friday. “Southwest Florida has continued to show the same resilience that we have seen in the face of hurricanes and other threats, and in speaking with community leaders, it is clear that we are all in this together to help our friends, families and neighbors.”

When it comes to medical supplies for health care workers locally, officials said they are working as diligently as possible to keep stocks full and to meet the needs of the community. They received a new shipment of testing swabs Thursday.

“We did receive a fresh shipment of testing swabs yesterday, and have enough on hand to meet the current needs of our community,” Antonucci said. “While we anticipate we may face supply challenges in the future, we are still currently in good shape overall to care for the community while ensuring our staff is appropriately protected. Our supply chain managers are working 24-seven to make sure we have the supplies we need to take care of our patients.”

Triage tents are being finalized outside of emergency rooms at Lee Health facilities, as well as the Cape Coral mobile collection site, to screen patients before they enter the hospital or are tested.

“The mobile triage unit at Lee Memorial Hospital is now operational, and the triage units at the other hospitals will be up and running within the next day or two,” Antonucci said. “There is still some confusion in understanding the difference between the mobile triage units and the mobile collection sites. We are collecting specimens for testing at the mobile collection sites, but there is no specimen collection happening at the triage tents outside of the emergency departments. These triage units have been built for the specific purpose of screening patients for signs of respiratory illness before they enter the emergency department so we can isolate them from the general population.”

Except under some compassionate care circumstances, all visitations are temporarily suspended at all of our adult acute care hospitals, with some exceptions for childbirth, officials said Friday.

“We know families want to be with their loved ones when they are hospitalized, and fully understand the hardship this can create, but it is vital that we continue to adhere to this policy for the safety of our staff, patients and community,” Antonucci said. “We will ease visitor restrictions as soon as we determine it is safe to do so.”

Some hospitals are getting creative when it comes to connecting loved ones.

“At Cape Coral Hospital, Nancy Travis, our passionate nursing director of the Center for Women and Children, has arranged for webcams to be used so loved ones can virtually visit with the newest members of their families,” Antonucci said.

Lee Health currently has 66 employees quarantined at home, with none having tested positive for COVID-19. To date, employee quarantines have not disrupted hospital operations, according to officials.

Over the past two weeks, Lee Health surgeons have been voluntarily modifying their surgical schedules and postponing some procedures, operating at around 50 percent, officials said.

Essential surgeries will still take place, with operations that do not effect the immediate health of a patient being rescheduled to a later date.

“This week, the chairpersons of our surgery sections met with other physician leaders to develop criteria and guidance based on information and recommendations received by the CDC, CMS, Surgeon General, the American College of Surgeons and other similar associations,” Antonucci said. “They have developed guidelines for surgeons, providers and hospitals to limit non-essential planned elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures to mitigate the risk of infection among our care team and preserve supplies and protective equipment for an uncertain future and to expand our hospital’s capacity to provide critical care. This may sound like a tortured way to say that we are banning elective surgeries, but as a physician I do not want the community to think that surgery is not an option for them if it is needed. The patient, surgeon and operating room leaders will work together to determine which surgeries will go forward and which are safe to delay until a later date.”

Lee Health and NHC launched a joint campaign yesterday, “SWFL Stronger Together” fundraising campaign.

“All donations will stay right here in our region to support Lee Health’s and NCH’s efforts in combating coronavirus. SWFL Stronger Together will provide critical resources, equipment and supplies needed to support our doctors and nurses,” Antonucci said. “Donations will also help provide additional ventilators, protective gear, mobile units and relief for employees impacted by the virus. We have already seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our community.”

Anyone wishing to give can visit www.SWFLtogether.org to make a donation.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj