Ventilator use at Lakeland Regional Health remains high as COVID-19 hospitalizations begin to drop

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – As COVID-19-related hospitalizations start to decrease at Lakeland Regional Health, dozens of patients remain on ventilators.

Those patients got sick and were hospitalized at the peak of the late summer surge, a leading doctor says.

“We still have more than 60 people on the ventilator with COVID and that is a very hard struggle for patients,” said Dr. Daniel Haight, the medical director of Infection Prevention and vice president for Community Health at Lakeland Regional Health.

Courtesy: Lakeland Regional Health

Dr. Haight described what it’s like to be isolated in a hospital bed on a ventilator.

“If you’re on a ventilator, you cannot talk. You cannot eat. There’s a tube that’s helping to get oxygen and your lungs are not accepting oxygen as they normally would. The lack of oxygen is going to really hurt your kidneys, your heart, your brain,” he said.

COVID-19 can cause lungs to collapse, blood clots that lead to strokes, and death.

Lakeland Regional purchased a refrigerator unit to expand its morgue capacity.

Patients are still dying every day, according to Haight.

“This is really occurring throughout the community, a number of ages. It’s been very hard on the families, especially how suddenly it can occur,” he said.

The latest numbers from the hospital show 373 patients with COVID-19, with 72 patients in the intensive care unit, and 63 on ventilators.

This is a decrease since the most recent peak which saw more than 400 patients hospitalized at LRH with COVID-19.

“This is thanks to the Delta variant,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County, during a Polk County commission meeting this week.

State data shows at least 61% of people 12 years of age and older in Polk County have been vaccinated.

“The impact of this on our community has been tens of thousands of people sickened, tens of thousands of people hospitalized, our hospital systems trained, and yes, people dying,” said Dr. Jackson.

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