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Opinion
East County Wednesday, Jul. 22, 2020 2 months ago

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center busy, but not maxed out

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Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

The worst product of fear is that it robs our ability to process information.

And that's been on display, and will be for at least the near future.

That's the part I struggle with as I read social media or watch or read news reports. Our lifetime of experience tells us just about every situation has its gray areas. In this case, though, we hear a whole lot of "I'm right and you're wrong."

For instance, some of my former colleagues who are sportswriters were promoting a report that said if college football is held next season, the players will contract COVID-19 and some will die.

I have no problem agreeing with the part where players will contract COVID-19. It's going to happen. Whether they actually catch it because they are playing football — as opposed to being out at a supermarket or a restaurant — doesn't really matter.

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

I have no problem if they cancel the season, if they make them play the game in space suits or if they play flag football. Do whatever is safe.

It's the "some will die" part that bugs me.

We don't need more things to fear. I am told I'm stupid because I am not considering an avalanche of numbers that seem to guarantee deaths. My comeback is that I don't think there's much in the way of statistics that show COVID-19 is going to lead to the deaths of ultra-healthy 18-22-year-olds who will be under the constant supervision of medical personnel. I don't suggest that we fail to take the situation seriously and to do whatever is necessary.

All they hear, though, is that I don't think COVID-19 will affect college football players. It's the inability to process information.

So it's no surprise when I hear our local hospitals are on the edge of collapse due to COVID-19, or that they are so inundated with COVID-19 patients that they won't be able to take care of the needs of the community.

I see the numbers posted online. That Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is out of bed space, that it's completely maxed out in the operating room.

So I went to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center CEO Andy Guz to explain the state of the hospital.

Guz first said the information current that day (July 16) could be completely different by the next and antiquated by the time my column was to run. That being said, he explained what is behind some of the numbers.

When people see Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is near 100% capacity, it doesn't mean the hospital can't take any more patients. It means that it is near capacity for its current staffing level.

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is a 120-bed hospital, but the staffing in July is determined by a lower, average count for previous Julys. So if the hospital is staffed to handle 90 patients, and the bed count goes to 105 as it did on one day in July, it takes some quick action to remedy the situation.

"We're very busy for this time of year," said Guz, who noted the hospital had 93 inpatients (24 COVID-19 inpatients) on this particular day. "Traditionally in the summer months, we don't see a full house. But we have COVID-19 patients we normally wouldn't have and we have non-COVID-19 patients who put off care. We saw a lot less strokes, heart attacks and chronic health conditions in March, April and May and they are coming in now. We are not built for huge summer volume. We rely on seasonal nurses."

But they are built to deal with it.

 The hospital is postponing inpatient elective procedures, or quality of life procedures. Guz said that lowers the stress on inpatient units. He then calls in nurses and whatever medical personnel is needed.

"It's no different in every other hospital," he said.

He said it takes more personnel to care for COVID-19 patients, mostly because of the many safety procedures required of any medical personnel coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient. He said that labor is intensive.

Guz is calm, but concerned. On Memorial Day weekend, the hospital had no COVID-19 patients, and in the middle of June the average was 3 to 4 a day. Now it's in the 20s. He said every person should be concerned about the spike in COVID-19 patients because it creates so many problems. That being said, the hospital is prepared to deal with the spike.

What Guz doesn't want is a social media blitz of false information scaring people from coming to the hospital for needed care.

"That's what we do, prepare for pandemics, for hurricanes, for disasters," he said. "We're in a hurricane that lasts for 5 months."

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