homepage logo

Plan to address bed capacity launched

By Staff | Jul 9, 2020

Lee Health has a plan to combat crowded hospitals and an increase of COVID-19 positive patients as numbers continue to increase locally and throughout the state, officials said Thursday.

President and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci said the system is in the midst of enacting a plan created in the early stages of the pandemic to deal with this surge of patients. This does include the reduction of elective surgeries that at one point were suspended entirely, but began to resume before this recent spike.

“We are now activating that plan to make sure we are using our beds in an optimal manner to care for our community,” Antonucci said. “As part of this surge plan, we are again reducing elective surgeries based our average daily census of staffed beds. Most elective surgeries are necessary procedures to improve the quality of life of our patients, and I am thankful for the understanding of those whose procedures may be delayed. This is a necessary action we must take to help keep our hospitals from being overrun and for the overall well being of our community.

“As you have heard over the last week, our ICU rooms are approaching full capacity. It is important for you to understand that hospital capacity and ICU bed availability fluctuates day-by-day and even hour-by-hour. We are actively monitoring every patient on ICU status to identify patients who can safely be shifted to a lower level of care, and as we bring in more staff we are able to transition additional rooms to accommodate ICU patients when needed. Intensive care is not a place, but a level of care.”

Antonucci also addressed their actions when it comes to staffing at the hospitals and other Lee Health facilities and said they are working to bring back those who were given alternative options when hospital staffing operations were less strained.

“Like all hospitals, Lee Health staffs to meet the demand of the volume of patients,” he said. “As the pandemic hit and the state shut down, our volumes dropped precipitously. As that happened, we created a staffing plan that allowed employees to go on leaves of absence to take care of loved ones, go on sabbatical and even voluntarily exit their employment if they wanted. The plan was engineered to bring staff back from leave or sabbatical as our volumes increased. We are working that plan and are bringing staff back as quickly as possible to open up more beds.”

Antonucci added that the number of patients that are in Lee Health’s care is “unprecedented” for the summer months. He said they are seeing volumes that are roughly 35 percent higher than normal for this time of year.

All together, Lee Health, as of Thursday afternoon, had 311 COVID-positive patients in inpatient hospitals and an addition 49 in their skilled nursing unit.

Antonucci once again called on the public to do its part to help mitigate the virus, in turn mitigating the number of patients entering hospitals on a daily basis.

“Every single person in our community can take proactive steps to help reverse these trends,” Antonucci said. “Coronavirus can infect anyone, and we know that even those without symptoms can pass this virus to others. When you go out in public please keep a safe physical distance and wear a mask. Good physical distancing means keeping at least a six-foot distance between yourself and others, even when wearing a mask. Safe distancing combined with mask wearing and good hand hygiene is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and others when out in public.”

While he understands the public may be wary of entering a hospital during the pandemic, he assures that Lee Health facilities are a place residents can come to safely.

“It is also critically important that people don’t delay necessary health care because they are nervous about coming into a health facility,” Antonucci said. “We have learned a lot over the last several months about how to keep COVID-19 patients isolated, and we have distinct protocols in place to care for symptomatic patients. We are here to care for you, and it remains safe to visit your doctor or the emergency department.”

Lee Heath also announced they will once again resume daily briefings with the media.

“It was important to me to resume daily media briefings in order to give our community the clearest picture of what is happening on the frontlines to help keep Southwest Florida safe,” Antonucci said. “The community is understandably concerned about the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the availability of resources to treat infected patients.”

Antonucci ended his update by saying, “This has been an incredibly challenging time for our health system, and the fight is far from over. I am so proud of our team who continues to care for their patients with compassion.”

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 232,718 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 8,935 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning.

More than 51,700 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, July 8. Of those reported tests, 18.39 percent tested positive; the highest single-day percent positivity rate since testing began.

Previously, the state saw its highest daily percentage of positive patients July 6, with a 16.21 percent positivity rate amongst 48,508 tests.

The number of tests processed on July 8 is below the average number of tests the state has completed each day over the last two weeks, which is 61,727.

On July 3, 85,080 tests were processed by the state — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. On that day, 14.11 percent of those tested received positive results.

The death toll increased by 120 from 11 a.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Thursday, reported among Brevard, Broward, Calhoun, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Manatee, Martin, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter and Volusia counties.

A total of 2,359,636 individuals have been tested: 2,124,680 have tested negative, 2,238 tests were inconclusive and 1,896 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 17,167 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 4,111 deaths.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (21%), followed by 35-44(16%), 15-24(16%) and 45-54 (15%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (19%), 75-84 (17%) and 55-64 (17%) years old.

In Lee County, 8,340 (+215) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 3,577 in Fort Myers (+75), 1,714 in Cape Coral (+53), 1,660 in Lehigh Acres (+43), 552 in Bonita Springs (+20), 268 in North Fort Myers (+6), 184 in Estero (+9), 40 on Fort Myers Beach (+0), 37 in Alva (+3), 22 in Sanibel (+2), 14 in Bokeelia (+0), seven on Matlacha (+1), eight in Saint James City (+2), three on Captiva (+0), four in Tice (+0), two in Miromar Lakes (+0), two in Boca Grande (+0), two in San Carlos Park (+0) and one in Buckingham (+0).

Ninety-four cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 101-year-old. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 172 (+0) deaths in Lee County; 121 deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday, Lee Health had 311 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals. A total of 1,206 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including 47 on Wednesday. Lee Health had 316 patients isolated in hospitals on Wednesday.

Lee Health has had 298 new coronavirus admissions with 245 discharges over the last seven days.

The system has submitted a total of 33,094 specimens for testing, with 1,425 results currently pending.

Lee Health’s mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 297 specimens.

Bed capacity as of Thursday is at 84 (-3)% percent, with 23.9 (+.5%) percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

As of Tuesday, 64(+4%) percent of ventilators and 13 (+4%) percent of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

For more details on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj