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Lee Health’s Hospitalized COVID Patient Numbers Continue to Decline, Capacity Issues Remain a Challenge

Lee Health
Lee Health Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Higgins speaking at a COVID-19 press conference, Tuesday.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Lee Health hospitals has declined every day for the past week even as capacity issues remain a significant challenge.

As of Tuesday, Lee Health reports treating 394 COVID-19 patients, which is down from 423 patients Monday, and marks the lowest number of coronavirus patients since early August. Eight of those cases are pediatric patients in the Golisano Children’s hospital, up from six patients the day prior.

Currently 96% of ICU rooms are full with 85 COVID patients requiring intensive care, including 70 on ventilators.

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Lee Health Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Higgins discussed the emotional and mental toll the pandemic continues to take on healthcare workers.

“Although the numbers are coming down, I don’t want you to think that means that these patients are any easier to deal with or that the mental toll doesn’t continue. Some of the patients may be fine one day, or seem to be improving, but then begin to deteriorate very quickly and may end up on a ventilator the next day in the ICU,” said Higgins.

“And these communications that we’re having, even with the numbers going down, we’re still having lots of communication, conversations around end of life care. These are very difficult conversations with family members and the care team…Unfortunately these conversations continue to take a huge mental toll both on our care team members, nurses and staff, all across the healthcare system.”

Higgins emphasized that COVID hospital data represents human lives.

“These numbers are people. They’re our community members. They’re our neighbors. They’re that person that you were in your neighborhood last week walking your dog with that person. That could be somebody that’s on a ventilator now in one of our hospitals. It’s very real to young and old alike,” said Higgins.

Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci also addressed President Biden’s recent announcement of a forthcoming federal rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to make sure staff are vaccinated or are being tested weekly for the virus. Antonucci said that with more than 13,000 employees and with Lee Health being a healthcare provider that receives Medicare and Medicaid funding, the proposed new rule would apply and that Lee Health plans to comply.

“So, we’re waiting for further clarification from the government on how that’s going to be done,” said Antonucci.

“There’s going to be a public opinion piece of this, and then there will be rule-making, and once the rules are made we will work with our teams to follow whatever the guidelines say as that comes down the pike.”

Lee Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and interim Chair of Quality & Patient Safety Dr. Stephanie Stovall also spoke at Tuesday’s media conference urging parents to get their eligible children vaccinated.

“If you haven’t gotten your child vaccinated you should,” said Dr. Stovall.

“There’s more and more data coming out showing that vaccines do prevent hospitalization. They do prevent death. That even applies to our 12 to 17-year-olds and is vitally important. We are taking care of your 12 to 17-year-olds who are vaccine eligible and we urge you to go get them vaccinated as soon as you can.

Lee Health continues to provide vaccine doses to anyone 12 and older through its vaccine clinic at Golisano Children’s Hospital, which accepts appointments and walk-ins on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Mobile Pediatric Vaccination Clinic also continues to deliver vaccine doses throughout the community. For a schedule of where the mobile clinic will be this week click here.

A “pain ease” topical spray is also available for kids worried about the pain associated with a needle stick.

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