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Palm Beach County set to release hospital COVID-19 data this week

'We're in a comfortable position to accommodate a further surge," Palm Beach County mayor says
Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 17:22:46-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The public is expected to get a better grasp this week of the situation impacting hospitals in Palm Beach County following this summer's surge in COVID-19 cases.


New data is slated to be released Wednesday afternoon concerning multiple key indicators including bed availability, number of ventilators in use and total COVID-19 positive patients.

The daily hospital reports will give Palm Beach County leaders an idea of the resources and capacity numbers.

"There is still [hospital] capacity. There is still an ability to expand the ERs and ICUs in this county, so I feel like we're in a comfortable position to accommodate a further surge," Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said ahead of the data release. "I don't anticipate that happening, but the information continues to come in."

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, Aug. 24, 2021
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner is encouraged that the COVID-19 situation will improve as vaccination rates increase.

The release of the hospital data comes after county officials issued an emergency directive Friday requiring hospitals to report to the county daily statistics of COVID-19.

The intensive care unit at Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade was full last week due to an increase in patients battling the virus.

As officials at Lakeside Medical Center scoured through Palm Beach County for available ICU beds at hospitals last week, county leaders had an eye-opening discussion on what happens to hospital capacity during a COVID-19 surge in peak hurricane season.

"If we're maxed out now, and all of a sudden we need another 500 beds in the county because a storm hits us, what's Plan B?" asked Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg Weiss.

"You will have to triage and make very difficult decisions that other hospitals in other states have made during the pandemic, " Palm Beach County Health Director Dr. Alina Alonso replied.

Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade
Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade saw a surge in COVID-19 patients this month.

Lakeside Medical Center was in a dire situation last week with its ICU capacity doubling from six to 12. No hospital in the state was able to take on patient transfers.

This week, the hospital's ICU COVID-19 count was at seven patients, and the patients testing positive for the virus decreased from 34 to 22.

"We are not taking any elective surgeries right now at all. That will free up some of our skilled nurses and surgical services to help us as we need to open up other areas in the hospital," said Janet Moreland, associate vice president at Lakeside Medical Center.

Moreland said the hospital also has a mobile unit on-site performing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to alleviate the emergency department.

Janet Moreland, associate vice president at Lakeside Medical Center.
Janet Moreland speaks on the hospital availability at Lakeside Medical Center amid the spike in COVID-19 cases.

"I think it's most important for the public to know we will do everything possible to take care of them, and so we have lots of resources that we've had to tap into to do so," Moreland said.

Moreland said having hospital data from around the county available for all to see will also let lakeside know which hospitals have room to take on transfers should that problem arise again.

"We can call around to the hospitals to see if they have bed availability, but this will help to see the true picture of what’s happening at each of the hospitals and that we're not alone," Moreland said.

Kerner said at this time there is no decision to activate the emergency operations center. Currently, the EOC is at a level three -- enhanced monitoring -- but was at partial activation until earlier this year.