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Lehigh hospital feeling effects of flu

January 16, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lehigh Regional Medical Center's president and CEO Joanie Jeanette says the flu has hit Lehigh Acres and that the emergency room is being filled almost daily by many local residents who are complaining with flu-like symptoms. A few have been diagnosed with the flu, but no deaths have been reported at the hospital on Lee Blvd., she said.

Jeanette was answering a question at a gathering of about 25 or so members of the Seniors Blue Book health group, which serves Lee and Collier counties in Southwest Florida. The Senior Blue Book can be found in most physicians' offices in both Lee and Collier counties and at other sites.

Officials at the four other hospitals in Fort Myers are reporting the same thing about their ERs being filled with people complaining with flu-like symptoms, too. It was reported that at least one person in Lee County has died from the flu which is being reported in epidemic portions in many parts of the country. Most of the flu cases are being reported in the eastern part of the U.S. Health officials say it is not too later to still get a flu shot and that the flu has manifested itself earlier this year than in past years and is expected to peak in the next few weeks with a larger group of sufferers.

Article Photos

Joanie Jeanette

Associates and physicians at LRMC say the hospital is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care in the safety environment as possible. A reflection of their determination to these two important areas of health care is exemplified by LRMC being honored with multiple awards and certifications over the past three years, the most recent being honored by one national health organization which gave it better grades in some health areas than the other hospitals in Fort Myers, which are public hospitals and not privately operated like LRMC.

Jeanette told the group every employee at LRMC has had the flu shot and that it is reflected with a color coded emblem on their identification tags.

Thomas Watson, director of Sterling House, which is owned by Brookdale Senior living with six facilities in Lee County, said his assisted living complex is more than happy to provide space for such healthcare meetings. The next meeting of the group is March 14 at HealthPark in Fort Myers.

He has been the head of Sterling House in Lehigh since April of last year.

Local health officials in Lee County are concerned because of snowbirds visiting the area and especially those from such states as Massachusetts where the flu is causing several deaths.

The meeting that featured LRMC's president was held Thursday at the Sterling House on Business Way in Lehigh and the members of the Seniors Blue Book organization move their meetings around the counties. There are some 50 to 60 members of the health-interest group but because of the distance to some of the meetings, it is too far to travel for a few.

LRMC's chief executive officer was the featured speaker and planned to tell the group of the success stories at the hospital.

She noted that owners of the private hospital have invested $6.5 million for facility and service improvements over the past five years and that the hospital offered such things as a popular medically wound care center and an endoscopy suite. LRMC had more than 44,000 "patient interactions" during 2011, with a report for 2012 coming out later this year.

Jeanette said the economic impact on Lehigh Acres and Lee County is enormous. She noted that more than $22 million in employee wages and benefits were paid in 2011 and that the hospital provided $39.7 million in uncompensated care. It paid in excess of $600,000 in taxes in 2011.

She also noted the amounts of funds that LRMC gives back to the community through fundraising.

In 2011, it raised $9,800 for the American Cancer Society, the Lehigh Community Services, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County and the Rotary Club of Lehigh Acres. It also donated $146,000 to help other organizations in Lehigh Acres.

The hospital, Jeanette said, offers a full range of medical services and procedures to patients in the Lehigh area region, which stretches for many to Immokalee and other communities to the east. The hospital is the major financial supporter of the Lehigh Spring Festival which occurs every March.

In the distant past and with former owners of the hospital, word in Lehigh was that the hospital was inferior and not a place to go to.

But over the years, things have changed, and Jeanette says she wants to get the message out to the community and assure them that LRMC brings quality health care to the area with comprehensive services and an experienced team of physicians and caregivers.



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