Sarasota Memorial Hospital leadership continues to express concern about the volume and rate of new COVID-19 cases in the community, announcing today plans to scale back non-emergency surgeries in response to the coronavirus.
In an email to hospital staff today, SMH President and CEO David Verinder outlined details of the sustained increase in COVID-19 patients at the facility. There are 118 COVID-19-positive patients at the hospital, 17.6% of the overall patient population. There are 23 patients with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit, 39% of the total ICU population. Fifty-nine of the 72 ICU beds are occupied, though the hospital said it can expand to more than 100 ICU beds if necessary in response to a surge in cases.
“A few weeks ago, we were admitting only a few COVID-19 patients each day, but the virus has spread rapidly and is causing serious illness in a growing number of community members,” Verinder said in the email. “Now, we are admitting 10-15 positive patients every day.”
Although the state has reported just three COVID-19 deaths in Sarasota County in July, SMH has reported 10 deaths at the facility this month, including five since Tuesday. A hospital spokesperson could not definitively speak to the discrepancy between the local and state data. The Joint Information Center on COVID-19 for the State of Florida did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over the past week, the positivity rate for coronavirus testing at SMH is 11.3%.
Verinder expressed optimism about the hospital’s ability thus far to treat and discharge between 10 and 20 COVID-19 patients daily. Still, he said the hospital is taking steps to delay some procedures because of the increase in cases.
On Monday, the hospital will begin decreasing non-emergency surgeries that require a stay of longer than three days. If necessary, the hospital is preparing to move into a second phase that would reduce surgical volume by 20%.
In an interview earlier this week, Verinder said the hospital has growing concerns about having the necessary staff to respond to the volume of patients. In Friday’s email, Verinder said SMH is hiring traveling and per diem staff and offering overtime and flexible hours to nursing team members.
Verinder closed the email by reiterating the importance of adhering to health guidelines.
“Everyone — staff and community members — can help reduce community spread and lower the positivity rate by wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene,” Verinder said.