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Spike in coronavirus numbers could force senior citizens to temporarily move to Fort Lauderdale

Less than 23% of ICU beds available in Palm Beach County, state numbers show
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 19:15:52-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Dr. Alina Alonso, the State Department of Health Director in Palm Beach County, said a medical facility in Fort Lauderdale could be a temporary home for seniors ready to be discharged from area hospitals.

Intensive care units are on a path toward maxing out in Palm Beach County.

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Contact 5 checked State Department of Health numbers that show less than 23 percent of ICU beds are available.

Alonso said about 200 seniors who live in local eldercare facilities are ready to be discharged from hospitals in the county.

"The hospitals are concerned that they're tying up beds with these people," said Alonso at a Palm Beach County commissioners meeting.

Dr. Alina Alonso
Dr. Alina Alonso said a contingency plan would send elderly patients to a facility in Fort Lauderdale to help alleviate hospitals if they become full due to a spike in coronavirus numbers.

This situation could put senior citizens in limbo. The nursing homes and assisted living facilities they call home will not let them return from the hospital until tests show they do not have a coronavirus infection.

Some of them were hospitalized with COVID-19 while others were in the hospital for other ailments, but still need a negative test to get back to their eldercare homes. Tests often take up to four days for results.

"They can also be taken to this facility in Fort Lauderdale to alleviate the hospitals because of the importance of the capacity issues at the hospitals right now," noted Alonso.

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"That is a contingency plan," added Dr. Amit Rastogi, the president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center.

Rastogi and administrators at other hospitals said that even though ICU beds are filling up, the facilities are not close to a breaking point.

Rastogi said those plans to potentially send patients to Fort Lauderdale would only be an option in a crisis.

"With coronavirus, when surges happen, they can happen in a short amount of time," said Rastogi. "Because of that, it is prudent to start the planning quite a bit early."

Rastogi and other local hospital officials say they know of no patients who have been transferred to Fort Lauderdale.

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