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Health News Florida

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
/
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.

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