FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee Health have announced the moving of its trauma center from Lee Memorial Hospital to the Gulf Coast Medical Center.
Members of the NAACP held a town hall on Saturday with representatives from Lee Health to discuss the recent move.
"On January 12, which was just a few days ago, that transition began,” said James Muwakkil, President of the Lee County NAACP.
A transition that will see Lee Health’s trauma center move about seven miles south to its new home at the Gulf Coast Medical Center.
“Relocating the trauma service was the right thing to do, to provide the best patient care that we could,” said Armando Llechu, Chief Officer of Hospital Operations and Women & Children’s Services with Lee Health.
It comes at a time where Lee Memorial Hospital is aging. Those with Lee Health say with the age of the building, the need for newer equipment, and centralizing their trauma care services- the timing of the move was right.
"Things that we’ve learned, even over the last years, that we need with different levels of care- is not as feasible to be able to do in that building,” said Dr. Ryan Brown, Chief Physican Executive of Lee Memorial Hospital.
In fact- Lee Health say they are seeing a larger number of gunshot wounds and stabbings coming from Lehigh Acres. The new location of the trauma center is designed to provide better access and be more centralized to the entire population they serve.
"In order to prepare for that move, we spent millions of dollars creating four state of the art trauma bays at Gulf Coast Medical Center," says Llechu. "We built an entire, new ICU for trauma patients at Gulf Coast. And we created capacity for patients at Gulf Coast to house both oncology and trauma.”
Lee Health says there will be a phasing down of services at their Cleveland campus as they prepare to build their new hospital at the corner of Challenger and Colonial. This news- as well as the move of the trauma center- was concerning to members of the NAACP.
"It was very important that the acknowledgment and the awareness that this would be a change for the Gulf Coast cross pillar, who normally would not get a lot of the trauma victims, that would go straight to Lee Health on Cleveland," said Muwakkil.
In the meantime, Lee Memorial will continue offering general medicine, surgery, orthopedics, imaging, and cardiac care. Lee Health says they anticipate to open the doors to their new campus in 2027.