Lee Health has surge plan as COVID-19 patients spike in hospitals

A coronavirus surge plan has been activated for hospitals seeing a large rise in COVID-19 patients. Lee Health hospitals are filling up to the point that nurses are treating patients in hallways.

They’re moving groups of COVID-19 patients to their own unit and outside of the overcrowded hospitals. They were treating 344 COVID-19 patients Thursday, putting the staffed bed capacity at 89%. The ICU was at 95% bed capacity.

Gulf Coast Medical Center in Lee County has opened units for COVID-19 patients who are recovering but not ready to return home yet. The unit was last open during a high point in the pandemic last year. It’s being reopened to facilitate the current spike in patients at hospitals filling emergency rooms and ICUs.

Because of the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Lee Heath turned the first floor of a skilled nursing unit into a COVID-19 cohort.

In a statement, Lee Health said, “The patients transferred to this unit no longer need hospital care, but they are not fully recovered to go home.”

“We’re managing the volume right now, but we are working through in the beginning to talk about plans if this does get out of control,” Lee Health CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci told WINK News Tuesday.

In addition to the COVID-19 wing, Lee Health canceled elective surgeries that require an overnight stay.

We asked Antonucci about Lee Health’s plan moving forward.

“We have a number of steps that we can enact,” Antonucci said. “If we start approaching that point, one of the things we can do is slow down our elective surgeries.”

Lee Health also brought in travel nurses and now offers increased pay for frontline workers and incentives for those who pick up extra shifts.

“So we are waiting patiently and watching and continuing to work as hard as we can with the anticipation that, at some point, we will hit a peak, and hopefully, the numbers will go down as quickly as they came up,” Antonucci said.

NCH Healthcare System was treating 150 COVID-19 patients Thursday, another record day for the health system. Four children are among the COVID-19 patients hospitalized. One is less than a year old and battling COVID-19.

If things continue the way they are, next up in Lee Health’s surge plan could be a field hospital.

While the number of COVID-19 patients rises, Lee Health also said there are more people visiting locations to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Lee Health was giving 100 shots a day, and last week, that number was up to as many a 300 in a single day.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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