Memorial CEO fears for hospital system’s ability to handle rising coronavirus numbers

Broward's 3 new test sites open Friday

Aurelio Fernandez, Memorial Healthcare’s president and CEO, said that bed space isn't the issue as much as having enough patients to care for patients at medical facilites that are filling up.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The head of the Memorial Healthcare System says it is everyone’s social responsibility to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, and he’s begging everyone to follow the rules.

“I don’t think the hospital industry can continue to take patients at the level we’ve been seeing patients at the emergency department,” said Aurelio Fernandez, Memorial’s president and CEO.

Fernandez gave a grim warning on Friday, telling Local 10 News that they have between 620 and 640 coronavirus patients in their hospitals right now.

“If you go back in April we were at a maximum of 189 patients, so we’ve almost tripled,” he said.

Of those 600-plus patients, 117 were in intensive-care units.

And Fernandez says while they aren’t struggling to find beds for these people at this point, he is concerned about having enough staff to take care of the extra patients.

“We have right now the ability to staff an additional 269 beds, but let’s say you go over 269 beds, we’re in a problem,” he said. “Because it’s not just the physical bed and the room, it is who is going to care for these patients?”

The good news is, most other hospitals in Broward seem to be seeing slightly fewer cases. Memorial attributes their high numbers to the patients they’ve gotten who are from Miami-Dade County, which has had more COVID-19 cases than any other county in the state.

Fernandez said that it may be time to start fining people in Broward County for not following the emergency orders — as they’re doing in Miami-Dade — because he says if we just follow the guidelines, we should be able to pull out of this crisis.

New test sites open

Broward County’s three new federally funded COVID-19 testing sites opened Friday, with swabbing getting underway at 8 a.m.

The new sites in Broward are at Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School (2501 NW 11th St.), Pompano Beach’s Blanche Ely High School (1201 NW 6th Ave.) and Hollywood’s McArthur High School (6501 Hollywood Blvd.).

Anyone 5 or older can now get tested for free at those locations.

Another site at Miami Jackson High (1751 NW 36th Street) is set to open Saturday, and one at Miami-Dade Auditorium (2901 W. Flagler St.) opened Thursday and was toured by the U.S. surgeon general.

In Broward the added testing comes as leaders continue to discuss code enforcement and other measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They gathered Thursday for a special workshop to talk code enforcement, hospital capacity and more.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.