LEE COUNTY — In just a matter of a few weeks, Lee Health is seeing similar patient numbers to what it saw a year ago during the height of the pandemic.
The hospital system tells us it’s starting to activate its surge plan to deal with the increase.
CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said emergency departments throughout the hospital system are now seeing about 900 patients every day, and he said about a third of those have COVID-19 symptoms. Those patients are contributing to the fastest spike in cases Lee Health has dealt with yet.
About 200 new COVID-19 patients have been admitted since the hospital system started releasing numbers again on July 23rd.
“Our total census right now is 1,500, which is the highest I’ve seen in my many years here," said Dr. Antonucci.
Unfortunately, Dr. Antonucci said a growing part of those patient numbers are children.
“We had eight patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital today, and we never had any more than two or three throughout the pandemic, so our children are beginning to get the disease also," said Dr. Antonucci.
Antonucci says Lee Health has started activating part of its "surge plan" to keep up staffing.
“We bring in a lot of traveling nurses. These are nurses who go from place to place. We’ve got a number of those. We’re also offering shift incentives for our own staff to allow them to work extra shifts if they want to. We’ve also recently increased our for CNA’s too to attract more people to the profession. So we’re doing everything we can," said Antonucci.
Antonucci said the intensive care unit is now at 95% capacity, and mobile units are being brought in to house patients, but he said one silver lining is that more people are turning to the most proven way to prevent serious illness: vaccines.
“A week ago we were doing about 100 a day, and I went by Friday, we had 300 scheduled. So I think people are getting the message," said Dr. Antonucci.
The vaccine clinic is available for free through Lee Health on Tuesdays and Fridays at Gulf Coast Medical Center, and they do take walk-ins.
Antonucci is also encouraging everyone to social distance and wear masks in indoor public places.