FORT MYERS — Lee Health is now recruiting nurses from across the region to help with a growing number of patients in intensive care. More than 20% of those patients have COVID-19.
At Gulf Coast Medical Center, the hospital is reporting only about 6% of its ICU beds are open right now. System-wide, Lee Health only has 14% of its beds open.
The hospital system is now hiring more nurses, because they expect the remaining beds could fill up by the end of the month.
We spoke with Chief Officer of Hospital Operations, Scott Kashman, who said this isn’t normally a time of year when the hospital system would be staffing up.
“We are seeing a rise though, about 20% more in census, than you would typically see this time of year," said Kashman.
It’s that increase in ICU patients that inspired Lee Health to send out a text message to qualified nurses and physicians across the area.
“That was the first time I had received it, so I don’t know if there has been other times. So yes, I was surprised," said Dr. Parisima Taeb.
Taeb was surprised to get the text, because she doesn’t deal with infectious disease. She runs a weight loss clinic in Fort Myers. She decided to share the text on Facebook, to let anyone who could respond know about the need.
“That was my main purpose of sharing that, so that people are aware in what critical situation we are right now, in a critical crisis," said Taeb.
Kashman said, they’ve already had people respond.
“We had employees who were on leave of absence that we brought them in. We’ve had employees who were on summer sabbaticals, that as their summer sabbaticals finish up, we’ve asked for them to come back in. Certainly we’re calling on travelers and have additional recruitment efforts on," said Kashman.
Kashman said, this is a proactive step based on the numbers they’re seeing. On Friday, the hospital system broke a record for COVID-19 patients, and on Saturday, the state of Florida broke a record for the number of new cases reported in a single day, 11,458. That’s only about 100 cases fewer than New York reported on its highest day, 11,571, when it was the epicenter of the pandemic back in April.
Kashman said, there’s only one way to stop that number from going any higher.
“Masking, social distancing, and hand-washing," said Kashman.
While Lee Health has not taken a stand on whether or not a mask order should be put in place, Taeb said she would support one.