Health First President & CEO Steve Johnson: 9,000 Dedicated Associates Continue to Work Around the Clock to Serve Brevard

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Combating COVID Together

Health First President & CEO Steve Johnson: Since the onset of COVID-19, we have learned much and Health First continues to be ready to serve the health needs of our community with a calm and reassuring hand. As we continue to meet the healthcare needs of Brevard families, we must all do our part to combat COVID together. The threat we face is serious, and we must all take the necessary safety precautions to slow the spread of this terrible virus.

Health First’s 9,000 dedicated associates continue to work around the clock to serve Brevard County in safe, clean facilities.

Calm is contagious. We have been bombarded for nearly six months with reminders of how COVID-19 spreads and the contagious nature of this devastating virus.

It is also true that how we respond in these trying times is contagious. Our community is looking to those who serve their healthcare needs for guidance and an indication of how their well-being will be preserved.

Since the onset of COVID-19, we have learned much and Health First continues to be ready to serve the health needs of our community with a calm and reassuring hand.

It is true that COVID-19 is once again on the rise, impacting our community with more cases and hospitalizations now than during the initial stage of the pandemic this past spring. Health First’s 9,000 dedicated associates continue to work around the clock to serve Brevard County in safe, clean facilities.

Health First maintains large quantities of PPE and regularly receives more supplies. All Health First associates, clinical and non-clinical, must wear the appropriate PPE and practice social distancing.

Here are some of the measures Health First has taken:

■ Health First maintains large quantities of PPE and regularly receives more supplies. All Health First associates, clinical and non-clinical, must wear the appropriate PPE and practice social distancing.

■ Health First has dramatically expanded our supply of breathing devices since the pandemic began. We now have 1,915 devices that can be used to help patients breathe.

■ Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have increased our ICU beds by 14%, our isolation ICU rooms by 88% and our isolation rooms by 246%. We have 118 ICU beds and 280 isolation rooms (an increase of 200 beds since pre-pandemic) for patients with respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19.

■ Health First offers drive-thru COVID testing at our Melbourne Gateway location to patients with a physician’s order. We continue working every day to expand our supply of test kits.

■ We continue to maintain precautions at all facilities to protect our associates, patients and visitors. This includes social distancing practices, plastic partitions in check-in areas, hand-sanitizing stations throughout our facilities, a universal masking policy, and strict disinfection and sanitation procedures. We also reinstated a strict no-visitation policy at our hospitals, with limited exceptions.

■ Health First now offers a free COVID-19 Information Line for residents. By calling 321-434-3636, residents can get general COVID-19 information as well as get connected to a variety of Health First facilities and services.

■ Health First deeply appreciates the tireless work of our associates to serve Brevard. Our associates have risen to the challenges of COVID-19. Many have shown flexibility and openness to additional training during this time period to assure they are ready to go where they are needed. Just as we plan how we can expand the availability of our beds and breathing devices, we also plan how we can support our associates to meet the needs of our patients.

■ Health First continues to have capacity to treat patients. Our hospital occupancy rates vary throughout the day and we have various contingencies to open additional units if we approach capacity. You may see on the AHCA website, or being shared in social media, that suggests Health First hospitals have no ICU beds available.

Health First is not overrun. While occupancy rates are higher now than at the start of the pandemic, we have surge planning in place to expand our ability to provide care and shift patients as needed to assure they are receiving the level of care they require.

We can quickly construct more spaces to treat patients with respiratory illnesses, and we can transfer patients between facilities as necessary. Health First has capacity to provide care to both COVID and non-COVID patients – if you need medical attention, please do not delay treatment.

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As we continue to meet the healthcare needs of Brevard families, we must all do our part to combat COVID together. The threat we face is serious, and we must all take the necessary safety precautions to slow the spread of this terrible virus.

While our healthcare heroes work on the frontlines to fight COVID-19, we urge all Brevard residents to strictly follow CDC guidelines. Wear a mask in public, practice social distancing, regularly wash your hands, do not touch your face, sanitize frequently touched surfaces and stay home if you feel sick.

Hospitals across Florida are facing capacity challenges, and we will face those same problems here in Brevard if we do not all take the necessary safety measures to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbors. Health First is committed to providing high-quality, compassionate care for Brevard. Let’s work together to keep Brevard well in these challenging times.

Also, and, almost as important, please beware that unsubstantiated rumors online about COVID-19 and our facilities are likely false or at least misleading. We pride ourselves on having an active social media presence to communicate with the community.

If you have any questions, please direct them to Questions@HF.org and we will promptly answer them.

Be well, Brevard.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Health First President & CEO Steve Johnson is responsible for providing overall direction and leadership for Health First’s Integrated Delivery Network, which includes Health First Health Plans and its 130,000 covered lives, four hospitals—Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne (514 beds), Health First’s Palm Bay Hospital in Palm Bay (152 beds), Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach (150 beds) and Health First’s Viera Hospital in Melbourne (84 beds) — as well as many outpatient, diagnostic and treatment centers, a multi-specialty physician practice, a network of fitness and wellness services and the only Heart Center and Level II Trauma Center in Brevard County.

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