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Patients sent to telemedicine clinic to help clear hospital

The COVID-19 Confirmed Clinic treats and monitors patients that have been to Tampa General Hospital or USF Health Clinics.

TAMPA, Fla. — Hospitals around the area are filling up with more COVID-19 patients.

To help move patients out of the hospital, Tampa General and USF Health are sending more patients to the telemedicine, COVID-19 Confirmed Clinic, otherwise known as the COCO clinic.

When the COCO clinic, started on March 30, they were seeing around 60 new patients a day.

When cases started to climb in June, “A couple of weeks ago at the beginning of June, is when we started seeing referrals upwards of 200, then, subsequently 400, up to 5 to 600 per day.”

The clinic stopped taking referrals from the Florida Department of Health to manage how many new patient referrals they receive per day.

With hospitals filling up, the COCO clinic has become a way for TGH and USF Health to move patients out, and free up beds. 

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“The other part of things is making sure that the patients that are seeing in the emergency department or they're admitted to the hospital, they can be moved as quickly as we can," said Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, the director of the clinic.

The patients who are leaving are not always fully recovered.

“We are discharging patients on oxygen way more often than what we had before," explained Dr. Perez-Colon. "We are discharging patients to be monitor at home, have the vital signs being monitored 24 hours a day, to have the appropriate care in the event of the decomposition.”

Patients are sent home with wearable technology that tracks their vitals and are given information on what to look out for. But if things get worse, “We do send information to the patient on to what to do if they have certain symptoms and things like that, but any abnormal value, we get an alert and and then we act on it," said Dr. Perez-Colon.

With a continuously growing patient population, the COCO clinic has requested more doctors. Dr. Perez-Colon says the help could not come soon enough, "because we do expect that these numbers are going to get worse before they get better.”

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