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Belle Glade sees spike in coronavirus cases; ICU full at Lakeside Medical Center

Patients leaving hospital against medical advice, says commissioner
Posted at 5:29 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 20:26:33-04

BELLE GLADE, Fla.  — A Palm Beach County official is calling Belle Glade a hot spot for the coronavirus.

According to the health department, there are 267 cases of COVID-19 in the city, which is a little more than one percent of the population.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is raising concerns and asking for more resources to be sent into the western communities after a spike in positive cases of the coronavirus.

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“Of the people that are showing up at Lakeside (Medical Center) for testing, 40 percent of them are testing positive,” said McKinlay.

McKinlay called Belle Glade a hot spot and said the intensive care unit is filled at Lakeside Medical Center. The hospital is using its post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) to house COVID-19 patients.

“They have patients that are leaving the hospital against medical advice,” said McKinlay.

The Health Care District of Palm Beach County owns and operates Lakeside Medical Center.

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

Officials said the hospital began to see a spike last week, but the number of patients admitted has declined over the last seven days and remains stable.

The health care district said it only reached out to the county over concerns the community was not engaging in social distancing.

It is a call heard loud and clear by the city’s mayor.

“This is a dangerous virus, and it’s killing people, and I want my community to understand we got to practice the social distancing,’ said Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson.

Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson
Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson

The Health Care District said Lakeside Medical Center has had no problem managing the patient volume. It is now conducting outreach efforts to educate people in the Glades about prevention.

Below is a statement from the Health Care District of Palm Beach County regarding coronavirus cases in Belle Glade:

We are grateful to Commissioner McKinlay for bringing attention to the health of the Glades Community in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. The Health Care District owns and operates Lakeside Medical Center, our acute care teaching hospital in Belle Glade. On May 7th we began to see spikes in admissions and Emergency Room visits with clusters of people complaining of COVID-like symptoms. Several of those patients reported circumstances that indicated they had not been engaging in social distancing. Health Care District leadership reached out to Commissioner McKinlay for assistance in spreading the message about these concerns to community leaders to help change those behaviors. Internal hospital data was shared to help emphasize the growing concerns. On May 7th the census was 43, of whom 20 patients were known positive and 14 had results pending. At that time, of all 243 patients who had been tested at Lakeside Medical Center since March 14, 41% had tested positive for COVID19. On May 7th there were 6 patients on ventilators, though Lakeside has a capacity of 17 ventilators.

As of May 15th, Lakeside Medical Center’s census has stabilized at 27, of whom 15 are known positive and 8 have test results pending. Four patients are on ventilators. In the current environment, most patients who arrive at Emergency Rooms, including Lakeside are typically very ill and require admission, or present with concerns of having COVID-19, as others are fearful of hospitals at this unprecedented time. We anticipate that the percentage of people with COVID will likely remain high in our facility for some time, however we are pleased that the number of patients requiring hospitalization has declined over the past 7 days and remains stable. At no time was there concern that Lakeside Medical Center was unable to manage their existing patient volume, there was only concern that community behaviors would result in continued growth in required admissions, which would then overburden our system.

We understand that these numbers will continue to spike and decline at all hospitals until a vaccine is identified and widely administered. Lakeside Medical Center is prepared with appropriate staffing, equipment, PPE’s and the availability of all private-patient rooms to serve the current need in the Glades community. In addition, the Health Care District of Palm Beach County and Lakeside Medical Center are conducting outreach efforts to educate Glades residents about prevention through educational flyers, social media, a radio PSA with retired NFL football player Anquan Boldin and one-on-one patient education in the hospital.