Lee Health shortages concerning for those with closer pandemic experience

Published: July 9, 2020 11:41 PM EDT
Updated: July 10, 2020 12:08 AM EDT

For the first time ever, Lee Health is activating its pandemic surge plan, the health system told WINK News Thursday. We also spoke to mothers who have concerns. One of them knows from experience what it’s like to be in the hospital watching a loved one get treated for the coronavirus.

Lee Health said it’s seeing more patients than it has ever seen during the summertime. Now, employees who were either encouraged to take leave or on sabbatical are receiving urgent calls to return to the front lines of the Lee Health response to COVID-19. And that immediately involves opening up more beds.

Mom Julie Lehotay wants all families at Lee Health to know where beds are for their loves ones in need.

“My concern is that it’s rising so quickly,” Lehotay said. “Hospital beds are being taken up; the capacity is getting smaller.”

And mom Ashley Flores understands the need for hospital beds, since her child needed to rely on one.

“With what we went through, it’s scary,” Flores said.

Flores said her then six-week-old stayed in the hospital for days after testing positive for COVID-19.

“The fact that they were able to get him in right away, that was very important to us,” Flores said.

Lee Health says it’s no longer flattening the curve, and it’s now activating its pandemic surge plan.

“Our ICU rooms are approaching full capacity,” Dr. Larry Antonucci, the Lee Health CEO and president told WINK News over the phone.

Lee Health is now asking for help from all community members to reverse the overflow by taking every precaution.

“We haven’t been seeing that, and with this getting a lot worse now, and things are still normal as far as people going out and going to places,” Flores said.

Antonucci says staffed bed capacity is at about 100%, meaning they still have more licensed beds but not enough staff.

“Unfortunately, it seems like the benchmark is well how many hospital beds do we have in Florida that determined what we’re doing,” Lehotay said. “Those hospital beds are becoming less and less.”

The plan to open up more beds involves scaling back elective surgeries and calling staff back to work.

“As we bring in more staff, we are able to transition additional rooms to accommodate ICU patients when needed,” Antonucci said.

“And, if they’re not able to have the space for people, that’s going to be a pretty scary situation for them to be in, for the hospital to be in or the staff to be in,” Flores said.

NOTE: NCH Healthcare System in Collier County says it does not need to activate any kind of surge plan at this point. But, if it did, NCH would be able to open up 1,000 adult beds, nearly 150 of those being critical care.