Lee Health doctors urging patients only to use ER if necessary as COVID-19 cases break new record

Posted at 8:00 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 20:01:10-04

CAPE CORAL — The number of COVID-19 patients at Lee Health continues to break records.

The hospital system now says it’s treating 498 people with the disease, and that’s putting an added toll on emergency rooms across Lee County.

Lee Health hospitals now have trailers outside the emergency rooms to provide extra space for patients. It’s just one of the steps the hospital is taking to deal with the massive increase of patients.

Dr. Timothy Dougherty runs the emergency department at Cape Coral Hospital. He said, every day, the challenge of caring for patients gets harder.

"Our volumes have greatly increased over the last two weeks. Exponential would be a mild word," said Dr. Dougherty.

That’s why Dr. Dougherty said, if you need emergency care in Lee County, expect a delay.

“There are going to be longer wait times than we would like, absolutely," said Dr. Dougherty.

But Dr. Dougherty said, at his hospital, they’ve kept those wait times to about 30 minutes right now by making several changes, including the new mobile patient rooms.

“As soon as when someone is stable enough to be discharged, they make sure that they get them home to free up those beds for everyone that’s coming in. We’ve been able to mobilize nurses and re-purpose nurses," said Dr. Dougherty.

But Dr. Dougherty said, if the trend Lee Health is tracking continues, wait times will get longer.

"We’ve been able to meet the demand, but that demand continues to rise and tax the system," said Dr. Dougherty.

That’s why Dr. Dougherty is asking people at home to avoid coming to the emergency room unless absolutely necessary. He recommends trying a virtual appointment first.

“They can download the Lee Health app and make those telehealth appointments, which will be quicker for them and will take some of the burden away from our emergency departments," said Dr. Dougherty.

But above all, Dr. Dougherty said the number one thing everyone can do to help is get the shot.

“Please get the vaccine. That’s the best way to handle this," said Dr. Dougherty.

Those telehealth appointments are being offered by Lee Health right now absolutely free, when normally they’re $49 a visit.