More testing needed as Lakeland Regional Health treats its first coronavirus patient

Coronavirus

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Six employees at Lakeland Regional Health are quarantined in their homes out of an abundance of caution as the hospital cares for its first COVID-19 patient.

“The positions that are currently part of the investigation for the Department of Health have to do with the registration team and a couple of nurses,” said Dr. Timothy Regan, chief medical officer at Lakeland Regional Health.

The patient is an 88-year old man who was taken to Lakeland Regional Health by Polk County EMS.

As of Friday afternoon, seven people had tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in Polk County, according to the Health Department.

“We have the ability to collect specimens but the test is not being performed here. There is a difference. I understand it can be confusing to people. So if people come thinking that the test would be done here and they would have a result before they leave here, that is not the case at this point,” said Dr. Regan.

Lakeland Regional Health officials said Friday at a press conference in the Mulaney Family Auditorium that more testing capabilities would provide the hospital with more options, including respiratory clinics and drive-thru testing sites.

“We would love to have more testing capability. I would say the number one thing we’re looking towards having is testing capabilities,” said Elaine Thompson, President & CEO, Lakeland Regional Health.

Another critical need across the country is protective gear, especially N75 masks. Right now, officials say, Lakeland Regional Health has enough.

“We absolutely feel comfortable that our team now has the protective patient equipment, including masks, that they need to take care of their patients now. We are not using bandana and scarves,” said Thompson.

The CDC now recommends medical staff use “homemade masks,” including bandanas and scarves, if facemasks are not available.

“We are well prepared to handle large volumes of patients in an efficient way,” said Dr. Regan.

On any given day, medical personnel at Lakeland Regional Health have access to 72 ventilators.

The hospital can bring in temporary units or repurpose other machines to add more than 100 ventilators to the hospital if the situation requires it.

“Currently statistically it’s less than 3% of patients would require that type of ventilatory support,” said Dr. Regan.

Health officials still advise patients with respiratory symptoms to call ahead before coming to the hospital.

“It helps our care teams immensely to know ahead of time when patients will be arriving that think they may be infected,” said Dr. Regan.

Hospital staff, wearing protective gear, can meet the patient in the car.

The hospital is also screening everyone who walks into the doors of the hospital, asking about symptoms and recent travel.

“If we do not take the precautions that are calmly being discussed right now about distancing yourself from others, staying home when you can, we will slow the spread of this infection. If we do not, we will see the infections increase to the point where it becomes difficult to provide the everyday care that we’re providing,” said Dr. Daniel Haight, medical director of infection prevention at Lakeland Regional Health.

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