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Lee Health: Situation dire, but bed availability good

By Staff | Mar 27, 2020

During today’s media call, Lee Health President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci called upon local leaders to stress social distancing and gave his sympathies to families of the now five patients that have passed away due to COVID-19 at Lee Health facilities.

“I want to take a moment to speak about those who have passed away from this virus,” said Antonucci on the call. “To date, five of our patients had their lives taken from them too soon, and to me this is not just another number or statistic to report out. Privacy laws prevent me from going into too much detail, but these victims left behind loved ones who will miss them dearly. They left behind children and grandchildren, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and an untold number of friends.

“My heart breaks for these families, and it is incumbent on our community to work together to get through this as quickly as possible in order to ensure that as few families as possible experience this same pain,” he said.

Antonucci called the current situation “dire,” suggesting local leaders take greater action. He suggested residents to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

“That is why today I am calling on local leaders to take action to promote social distancing,” he said. “The situation is dire, and we must act now to stop this virus from tearing many more families apart. This is not a virus that attacks just the vulnerable or the elderly. We have seen people from all ages, all walks of life and all levels of health face the battle of their lives against this virus, and unfortunately not everyone wins that battle.

“COVID-19 is spreading exponentially across our country, and it will continue to do so until we deprive it of its fuel, which is fresh hosts to attack. There is only one way to do this, and that is for everyone to stay home unless absolutely necessary. It will be inconvenient, it will have financial implications, but the sooner we act the sooner we can defeat this invisible predator and return to normalcy, and more importantly, save lives. Far too many are still ignoring the warnings, and that is why we are asking our local leaders to act,” he said.

The numbers update today saw three more patients in Lee Health’s care with COVID-19, bringing the current A positive total to 14. Lee Health also reported nine patients were discharged.

As of today, Lee Health had submitted a total of 1,815 specimens for testing with a total of 45 presumptive positives since March 6.

Lee Health has 118 employees quarantined at home and three employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

On March 26, its mobile collection sites at Page Field and Cape Coral Sports Complex collected 184 specimens. Lee TeleHealth had 141 virtual visits.

Antonucci also addressed the number of available beds in the Lee Heath system and the current levels of capacity.

“Lee Health has 1,329 operational patient beds and we are currently at 74 percent occupancy system-wide,” Antonucci said. “Typically, at this time of year we would be closer to 100 percent capacity, but I pass this along so you know that our hospitals remain in good shape to care for all patients coming through our doors.”

He also reported the early availability of additional beds at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

“I am pleased to announce that all of the appropriate agencies have finished their inspection and approval processes, and we have been given the green light to open the 216 new beds at Gulf Coast Medical Center early,” Antonucci said. “More details will come next week on our plan for these beds, but this is great news for our community.”

Lee Health is also starting to get creative and seek alternatives when it comes to the safety of its employees and personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“We have installed HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration hoods at the head of the beds in our cohort units,” Antonucci said. “These hoods are connected to HEPA-filtered air movers and create negative air pressure between the caregiver and the patient. This system captures infectious particles at the source, and is engineered to increase the airflow in the room. This system does not replace PPE, but works as a compliment to the protection the caregiver is wearing to increase overall safety.”

Antonucci closed by thanking the community for all of its support.

“I want to take a moment to recognize some of the generous local businesses and organizations who have made donations to Lee Health,” he said. “The support of our community means the world to our heroes on the frontline.”