Lee Health erects tent at Lee Memorial for coronavirus triage and screening

Fort Myers News-Press

Two Lee Health employees have tested positive for coronavirus and 118 employees are quarantined at home, according to hospital officials.

The publicly-operated hospital system is working on consolidating outpatient operations and redirecting employees to the hospitals to beef up staffing, Dr. Larry Antonucci said during a media briefing Thursday.

“As the volume in outpatient facilities has declined there has also been an increase in the need for additional employees in our inpatient facilities, and many employees from the outpatient setting will be able to help ease the burden in the hospitals,” he said.

As of midday Thursday, Lee Health reported it had 11 patients with coronavirus in isolation in its hospitals. NCH Healthcare System is treating nine patients, according to hospital leaders.

The state Department of Health released updated figures midday Thursday that Lee County saw four more positive test results for a total of 56 cases. Collier County added eight more cases for a total of 65 cases.

Tracking COVID-19 in Lee County: Confirmed positive cases increase to 56

Tracking COVID-19 in Collier County: Confirmed cases of the coronavirus now up to 65

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The state saw a spike of 378 more cases since late Wednesday for a new total of 2,355, and the death toll climbed from 23 to 28, according to the health department.

Antonucci did not say how many employees will be reassigned to work in the hospitals after outpatient centers are consolidated due to decreasing outpatient visits.


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The centers at Surfside, Sanctuary, Coconut Point, HealthPark Commons and the Regional Cancer Center will remain open, he said.

Lee Health hopes to conduct COVID-19 testing at its own laboratory soon, he said.

“I don’t yet have an exact timeline on when in-house testing will be available, but we are working hard to get that up and running for our patients,” Antonucci said.

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In Collier, 37 employees of NCH Baker Hospital are quarantined at home and 26 employees of NCH North Naples are quarantined, president and CEO Paul Hiltz said. Another 37 employees are self-isolating due to their recent travel and guidelines from the state, Hiltz said.

Fifteen employees who had earlier been quarantined were able to return to work Thursday and another 19 employees are expected to return to work Friday, Hiltz said.

Antonucci, of Lee Health, acknowledged the public’s frustration with the amount of time it takes for testing results. To date, Lee Health has submitted 1,757 specimens for testing. The mobile testing sites located in Fort Myers and Cape Coral have collected 172 specimens.

“We are at the mercy of the labs who are testing our specimens, and results have been coming in anywhere between two and 10 days,” he said.

Lee Health will increase the number of commercial labs being used to speed up turnaround time for results, he said.

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Hiltz, of NCH, said the system has sent out 336 specimens for laboratory testing.

No information was provided about re-opening the mobile drive-through site at the Baker Hospital. The mobile location was shut down Tuesday due to supplies for that purpose being exhausted, NCH said.

Hiltz said Thursday that NCH is being proactive in conserving its supplies.

“We are still in need of donations for protective gear, including masks, gowns and suits, gloves, booties, hoods, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies like Clorox and Lysol,” Hiltz said.


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