Gulf Coast Medical Center fast-tracks expansion to open up beds for COVID-19 patients

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Gulf Coast Medical Center

Dozens of new beds are being made available at Gulf Coast Medical Center to treat patients with the coronavirus.

The hospital fast-tracked its construction project to help during the pandemic, so on Thursday, three new floors – 250 beds – will open to treat COVID-19 patients, and in the future, doctors will treat cancer on those floors.

Ericka Lopez’s daughter Breana is fighting leukemia, and she said it isn’t easy to explain to children that the highly-contagious COVID-19 is a grave threat to people with serious illnesses.

“Is it fair for Breana whose immune system … who may never have the opportunity like a normal child to go outside and see the blue skies, the green grass and know what it is to feel the sun and the heat, maybe not. Maybe now people can understand, this is a serious thing,” Lopez said.

But now, the Lopez family is using this scary time to ask others to remember families like theirs, because they still have to go back and forth to the hospital for treatment.

“In the short term, however, we’ll use this floor as a cohort floor for patients that end up with coronavirus or are suspected of having coronavirus,” said Dr. Jon Velez, vice president of operations and chief physician executive of Gulf Coast Medical Center.

Gulf Coast Medical Center’s expansion project means more room for all patients, using the space for confirmed positive cases and patients considered under investigation.

“You don’t know who your next-door neighbor is, and you don’t know what their immune system is…. just be considerate of your next-door neighbors,” Lopez said.

The expansion project was already in progress just to meet Southwest Florida’s needs since we’re outgrowing hospitals, but they sped up the process about two months early to help get our community through this time.

A message from Lee Health President & CEO, Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA:

“Though our sophisticated predictive analytics model helps us map out scenarios to help us prepare for the increase in patient volumes we will see, no crystal ball is going to tell us definitively how many persons under investigation (PUI) or COVID-19-positive patients we will treat. Because we are Southwest Florida’s major destination for health care, and it is our responsibility and privilege to care for our community, we have been working diligently to ensure we have beds, capacity and equipment to meet the needs. In addition to researching alternate care sites outside of our facilities, we also have expedited the opening of the expansion at Gulf Coast Medical Center.

On April 2, two months ahead of schedule, we are officially opening the 216 beds on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors. The plan is to use these units to cohort PUI and COVID-19 patients. By opening these three new floors, we are adding 18 negative pressure rooms, which are critical to providing care to our patients. With the opening of the expansion, Gulf Coast Medical Center will have 250 beds for PUI and COVID-19 patients, 224 beds for non-COVID-19 medical care, and 76 ICU and ICU overflow beds.

Expediting the opening of the hospital was made possible thanks to the amazing work of people across Lee Health and the community, including our contractors, equipment providers, supply chain, information technology, facilities planning, ancillary services and many others.

The onus is on us to care for our community and it is a sacred responsibility. We are proud to be #LeeHealthStrong and we are ready to do all we can to care for our community.

We’d like to thank all the teams that made this opening possible, but especially the people that have stepped up to lead and staff the various units. In times of challenge like today, we see who the true healthcare heroes are. Your bravery and exceptional professionalism is appreciated and valued.”

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.