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Lee Health enacts plan for bed capacity

By Staff | Jul 10, 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 on July 9.

Lee Health President 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. It does include the reduction of elective surgeries that at one point were suspended entirely, but resumed before the 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,” he 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,” he said. “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.

All together, Lee Health had 311 COVID-positive patients in inpatient hospitals and an addition 49 in their skilled nursing unit as of July 9.

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,” he 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 it 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.”

He 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.”