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Lee Health is at 108% capacity, warns of long ER waits for mild symptoms and offers free telehealth

 Dr. Larry Antonucci and Armando Llechu at a news conference Thursday
Cary Barbor
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Lee Health's Dr. Larry Antonucci and Armando Llechu at a news conference Thursday

The hospital has suspended elective surgeries that require an overnight stay and is movng patients younger than 29 to the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Lee Health reports that the combination of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the return of seasonal residents means that the hospital system is overcrowded.

The president and CEO of Lee Health, Dr. Larry Antonucci, broke down how full the hospital system in Lee County is at a news conference Thursday.

“We were hoping that with the omicron surge beginning to dissipate, that we would see better capacity here, but it really hasn't happened. (Wednesday) and (Thursday), we were at 108 percent of our capacity,” he said.

The hospital has implemented free telehealth services, whereby patients can speak to a nurse practitioner or physician and get care without coming in.

Lee Health has suspended elective surgeries that require an overnight stay and is movng patients younger than 29 to the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers.

Armando Llechu, chief officer of hospital operations, urges people not to automatically come to the emergency department for care.

“If you are having mild COVID symptoms, I would ask you to please leverage our free telehealth service. If you are having respiratory distress and are having major COVID symptoms, then yes, call 911 and come into our ER. But please know that when you come to an urgent care center or one of our ERs, if you are coming in for a minor condition, you are likely going to wind up waiting longer than you expect and longer than you would like,” said Llechu. 

He added that while patients with a heart attack or stroke would have a no wait time, patients coming in with something mild might have to wait eight to 10 hours to be seen.

Access Lee Telehealth here. It is free.

Copyright 2022 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Cary Barbor is the local host of All Things Considered and a reporter for WGCU. She was a producer for Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius XM, where she hosted a live interview show with authors of new books called Books and Authors. She was a producer for The Leonard Lopate Show, a live, daily show that covered arts, culture, politics, and food on New York City’s public radio station WNYC. She also worked as a producer on Studio 360, a weekly culture magazine; and The Sunday Long Read, a show that features in-depth conversations with journalists and other writers. She has filed stories for The Pulse and Here & Now. In addition to radio, she has a career writing for magazines, including Salon, Teen Vogue, New York, Health, and More. She has published short stories and personal essays and is always working on a novel. She was a Knight Journalism Fellow, where she studied health reporting at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and followed epidemiologists around Kenya and Alaska. She has a B.A. in English from Lafayette College and an M.A. in Literature from the University of Massachusetts.