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Lee Health/NCH Officials Address Hospital Capacity Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The current surge in COVID-19 cases is prompting local health officials to once again resume daily press briefings. As of Thursday morning, 87% of Lee Health’s ICU beds were full, and 60% of critical care beds were full at NCH hospitals.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said the health system’s four acute care hospitals are experiencing an unprecedented 35% increase in patients compared to what they typically experience in the summer months. Lee Health is currently treating 360 COVID-19 positive patients.

Antonucci said Lee Health is implementing its patient surge plan created early on in the pandemic.

“We are now activating the plan to make sure we are using our beds in an optimal matter to care for our community. As part of this surge plan we are again reducing elective surgeries based on average daily census of staff beds,” said Dr. Antonucci.

The surge plan also calls for bringing on more nurses with Intensive Care, Progressive Care, or Post-Anesthesia Care Unit-training, including some of the nearly 900 staffers who voluntarily quit or took sabbatical when the COVID-19 caseload was trending downward before phase two of Governor Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan went into effect June 5.

Meanwhile, NCH Chief Nursing Officer John Kling says NCH facilities are treating 110 COVID-19 patients and that the health system has 101 open adult beds and 19 open critical care beds.

NCH has not yet activated a patient surge plan, but Kling said if that happens, they have the capacity to expand from 715 total adult beds to 1,000 adult patient beds including an expansion of ICU bed capacity from 48 patients to 143.

Kling also addressed the health system’s dwindling supply of the antiviral drug Remdesivir, noting they may run out before getting another shipment of the drug next week.

“However, the short window in which Remdesivir might not be readily available is another reason why NCH is asking for those individuals who have had COVID-19 and fully recovered to consider becoming a convalescent plasma donor,” said Kling.

“The antibodies contained in the blood of those who survive the disease may be helpful to others currently fighting COVID-19.”

93.5% of NCH’s ventilators and 64% of Lee Health’s ventilators are currently available.

Kling attributes the declining need for ventilators to the increasing number of new coronavirus infections in younger people who generally require less critical care. He says the ages of NCH’s COVID-19 patients has been trending downward and now stands at a median of 44-years-old.

Antonucci is also encouraging people not to avoid necessary trips to the doctor or the emergency room because of the pandemic. He also encourages everyone to wear a mask when in public, to practice good hand hygiene and keep a distance of six feet from other people even when wearing a protective face covering.

Lee Health and NCH officials plan to provide another update on hospital capacity Friday afternoon.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit .

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPRââââ