Gulf Coast Medical Center on pace to help ease ER crowding

Long lines and people stuck in hallways waiting to be seen by an ER doctor. That’s the scene at many emergency rooms across Southwest Florida.

Now a massive project in Lee County could help change all that. Gulf Coast Medical Center is undergoing a to make healthcare more accessible for you and meet the growing demands local health care needs.

Pat Garner is a stroke survivor, “I know I waited a while in the hall to get into a bed.”

She’s talking about her experience at a Lee County Hospital when she went in for treatment, “The emergency room, it was a zoo,” she said.

Now, Lee Health is trying to do something about the problem with an expansion project at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

Lee Health Vice President of Facilities and Support Services, Dave Kistel emphasized the importance of the project, “It’s critical. This population is growing. Lee County is one of the fastest growing areas in Florida.”

Right now this facility has about 349 beds. Once this renovation is complete, they’ll have more than 600.

Kistel says “Over the last several years, there have been people waiting for treatment in the EDs,” which means the Emergency Department, “We are adding 32 ED bays and we’ll be going to 72 ED bays.”

Moving forward, patients like Garner hope these projects will help others, like herself, “It’s cyclical. Sometimes more are needed. It’s hard to provide for the worst case scenario.”

Lee Health says this site is also getting an expanded radiology department, pharmacy and clinical lab, but not everyone thinks beds are what we need.

John Luscombe is retired a hospital architect and has experienced the overcrowding at Lee County health clinics before.

“We were there and they were overflowing with people needing to be treated,” Luscombe said, “Especially with the flu epidemic we had. Some of the outpatient facilities have been overcrowded.”

With more patients, they need more parking spaces. Which is why they built a new parking garage upping the spaces from about 1,400 to more than 2,500.


Once this project is done, 275 more hospital beds will be added at Gulf Coast Medical Center to help easy the pressure.

“I’m not sure we need a lot of beds,” Luscombe said, skeptical of the plan, “So many of the procedures are outpatient procedures and 24 hour care.”

He says with the sophistication of hospitals these days more attention should be given to outpatient care.

Reporter:Channing Frampton