As COVID-19 cases increase, community hospitals share concern for health care workers

More infected patients, more infected staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville area hospitals are bracing for the holiday weekend. With sunny skies, high temperatures and businesses remaining open, local doctors are concerned that coronavirus cases will continue to rise.

Action News Jax reached out to eight local hospitals in Northeast Florida. UF Health and Baptist Medical Center said their Jacksonville hospitals are experiencing an increase in new cases.

“Just in general, we are seeing an increase of COVID-19 hospitalizations at UF Health Jacksonville as is much of the city,” Dr. Chad Neilsen, the Director of Accreditation and Infection Prevention at UF Health, said.

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“Our number of positives that we’re seeing through the emergency department is much higher actually than it was at the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr. Elizabeth Ransom said. She is the Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive for Baptist Health.

Local doctors told Action News Jax there is a concern that a rise in coronavirus cases could threaten the health care system.

Dr. Neilsen said more of their health care workers are catching COVID-19. He said the majority of it happens outside of the hospital in their daily lives.

“As the cases in the community increase, we do have that risk that we could be losing staff members,” Dr. Neilsen said. “So we’ve been telling our staff members internally wear your personal protective equipment. But we’re even going as far now to tell our staff members, hey you might want to think about going to that beach party this weekend or that backyard barbeque.”

He said UF Health has created emergency plans in case there is a shortage in health care workers, including contract workers and more beds.

As a precaution, Dr. Ransom said Baptist has stockpiled equipment to use if cases continue to increase.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, we really prepared to create extra capacity in the event of a huge surge. Thankfully we didn’t need to use a lot of that but we still have that,” Dr. Ransom said.