Why Florida hospitals are marketing ERs as bed availability shrinks

Hospitals in Tampa, Fla., are marketing their emergency departments despite being near capacity, according to a July 31 Tampa Bay Business Journal report.

A spokesperson for Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth, which has been running radio and newspaper ads for its ERs, reported an increase in COVID-19 patients needing to be admitted and plans to provide medical exams as well as critical care in the ER. The health system worries that if patients delay emergency care during the pandemic, their conditions will worsen. In Seminole County, where AdventHealth is based, there is 23.57 percent available bed capacity as of July 31, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration for the state of Florida.

BayCare Health System in Clearwater said the lower ER volume has affected its marketing strategy and the health system has transitioned messaging from awareness on coronavirus to focus more on the crisis. Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Edward Rafalski said the system is planning to focus messaging around recovery in the future.

BayCare is currently halting elective surgeries to ensure there are enough resources to care for COVID-19 patients, but is still advertising its ER as a clean and safe space on TV, radio, print ads and digital billboards.

"One of things we did early on in the pandemic was online strategy. We were concerned people who thought they had the virus would be clogging the ERs and we would not be able to treat others," Mr. Rafalski told the Tampa Bay Business Journal, although he also said he doesn't think ER visit volume will return to the pre-pandemic normal. In Pinellas County, where BayCare is based, there is 19 percent available bed capacity.

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