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Lee Health reports Gulf Coast Medical Center expansion will open Thursday

By Staff | Mar 31, 2020

The more beds, the better.

Lee Health announced Tuesday afternoon that the 216-bed expansion at Gulf Coast Medical Center will open Thursday, two months ahead of schedule.

The hospital will have 250 dedicated beds to treat COVID-19 patients and persons under investigation (PUIs) in cohorted units to keep them separate from non-COVID patients.

This opening also gives Lee Health 18 additional negative pressure isolation rooms and up to 36 overflow ICU beds to treat COVID-19.

“Expediting the opening of the hospital was made possible thanks to the amazing work of people across Lee Health and the community, including our contractors, equipment providers, supply chain, information technology, facilities planning, ancillary services and many others,” Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said on a media call Tuesday. “Though our sophisticated predictive analytics model helps us map out scenarios to help us prepare for increases in patient volumes, no crystal ball is going to tell us definitively how many persons under investigation or COVID-19-positive patients we will treat.

“As Lee County’s major destination for health care, it is our responsibility and privilege to care for our community. We have been working diligently to ensure we have the beds, capacity and equipment to meet the needs. The onus is on us to care for our community and it is a sacred responsibility. We are proud to be Lee Health strong and we are ready to do all we can to care for our community.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, there are 6,338 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida as well as six additional deaths reported among Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Polk counties.

A total of 60,639 individuals have been tested: 54,285 have tested negative, 16 tests were inconclusive and 1,163 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 772 have been hospitalized and there have been 77 deaths.

Florida’s testing has increased over the past two weeks with the percentage of positives ranging from 7-10 percent. The percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 10 percent. Of the 7,474 tests performed on March 30, the most recent date, there were 1,006 positive results, or 13 percent.

In Lee County, 185 individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Tuesday — 85 in Fort Myers, 30 in Cape Coral, 21 in Bonita Springs, 19 in Lehigh Acres, seven in Estero, six in North Fort Myers, three in Sanibel, two on Fort Myers Beach and one on Captiva. Four positives were not classified by community.

Lee Health currently has 29 COVID-19 patients isolated in their hospitals and 14 patients have been discharged

Lee Health has submitted a total of 2,785 specimens for testing, yielding 125 presumptive positives since March 6. These are the cases being treated by Lee Health and does not include all cases in the community.

Lee Health now has 140 employees quarantined at home and seven employees have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work.

Yesterday, its mobile collection sites at Page Field and Cape Coral Sports Complex collected 95 specimens and Lee TeleHealth had 134 virtual visits.

“In addition to the 29 COVID-19 patients currently admitted, we also have 254 persons under investigation across our health system,” Dr. Antonucci said. “This continues to represent about 27 percent of our total patient occupancy. We are currently at just over 70 percent capacity across the entire health system, and coupled with the new beds that will be opening later this week, we remain in good shape presently to care for those who need it. These numbers will change as COVID-19 continues its exponential spread, and that is why I will continue to advocate for increased social distancing every day until this threat has left our community.”

Dr. Antonucci also commented on the contemplation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend the usage of masks by the public.

“I do know they are considering issuing guidelines recommending everyone cover their faces when out in public,” he said. “While they haven’t updated their recommendations yet, I will say that if it gets to the point that the CDC is urging the use of masks anytime someone leaves their house, that is even more of a signal to stay home unless absolutely necessary.”

– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj