Raulerson Hospital director of emergency services: “We need help”

Posted 8/20/21

In a video message posted online, Kathy Selby, director of emergency services at Raulerson Hospital, says the COVID-19 pandemic in Okeechobee is the worst it’s ever been.

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Raulerson Hospital director of emergency services: “We need help”

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In a video message posted online, Kathy Selby, director of emergency services at Raulerson Hospital, says the COVID-19 pandemic in Okeechobee is the worst it’s ever been.

“We are seeing more patients in the emergency room now that are positive,” said Selby. “In the beginning we were seeing two to three positives a day. Now we’re seeing 10-15 positives every single day.”

According to Selby 66% of the patients at Raulerson Hospital are positive for COVID-19.
“Our ICUs are overflowing,” she added. “The ER is packed. Everyone is working really hard right now and doing their absolute best. But we need help from the community to get control of this disease right now.”

During the Aug. 12 meeting of the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners, Commissioner Burroughs relayed a conversation he had with  Raulerson Hospital CEO Brian Melear about the number of patients coming through his building.

“I talked to Brian,” began Burroughs. “He’s got like 30 positives in there and most of them are younger population. Ninety-three percent of them have not been vaccinated. In terms of his emergency room, on Monday he had 102 people come through. And he’s had eighty plus every day since that time.”

“His reference this morning was kind of interesting,” continued Burroughs on his conversation with Brian Melear. “Based on some of the calls he was on yesterday, on last year’s covid strain one person would spread it to one to two people. This new strain is incredibly infectious, and it’s one person to five to nine infections. So I think people should be very cautious. We’re not trying to put mandated masks in and all that kind of stuff. The issue is you need to be cautious. And if you determine that vaccination is what you need to be doing then we would encourage it”

Selby says the numbers are accumulating faster than they can keep up.

“Right now in Okeechobee County the vaccination rate is very low,” explained Selby. “This virus, the delta variant, is running rampant through the unvaccinated population. Luckily, over (the age of) 65, Okeechobee has 80% vaccinated. So that population has been very protected. The average age of person we’re seeing right now is between 35 and 50 years of age. That’s ridiculous. Young people that age should not be getting sick.”

The hospital has also seen an increase in younger pediatric patients with the start of school.

“With the original covid,” Selby said, “the pediatric population actually seemed to tolerate that very well. We were running about 10% of all patients in the ER that were pediatric. That number over the last three weeks has slowly ticked up , from 10%, to 15%, to 20%. And I’m really a little nervous about next week and the following week. Because they’re all back in school and of course we didn’t mandate masking. We’re expecting a larger pediatric population in a week or so and we’re preparing for it.”

Right now, Selby says to using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated are the best ways for Okeechobee to get out of the current surge.

“It’s the number one thing you can do to protect yourself, and to protect those you love and your community.”

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