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Lee Health: Don't come to the ER if you only want a test

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Posted at 12:37 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 22:53:19-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Leaders with the Lee Health system said Tuesday their resources are being pushed to a critical level, and are asking people who are only wanting to be tested for COVID-19 do not come to emergency rooms or Convenient Care locations to do so.

Dr. Larry Antonucci, President and CEO of Lee Health, said "the strain on our staff is incredible" as hospitals once again near capacity.

The plea comes as the health system was once again forced to suspend elective surgeries that required an overnight stay in the hospital.

Dr. Armando Llechu, Chief Officer of Operations, added that Lee Health, like many other medical systems across the country, are facing staffing challenges that add up to increased wait times for patients.

To that end, the doctors urged people who think they may have COVID symptoms and wish to be tested do so via the plethora of at-home testing methods available at neighborhood stores and pharmacies.

Dr. Antonucci stressed the importance of being vaccinated. While acknowledging that breakthrough cases (those who are vaccinated and still contract COVID) exist, Antonucci said that the symptoms in those cases are much less severe than those who are unvaccinated, and who wind up hospitalized and in some cases, put on ventilators.

Dr. Llechu also advised the public to do the simple things to mitigate the possible spread of COVID - masking, social distancing, and washing hands.

"If you don't do it for yourself," he said, "do it for our health care providers who have been dealing with surge after surge for close to two years."

They reiterated that Lee Telehealth is accessible for free for the time being to help alleviate wait times at in-person facilities.

The officials said while they expect the current surge to "peak" within 2-3 weeks, they do not expect the staffing or patient demand across the Lee Health system to subside within that timeframe.