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‘Its overwhelming:’ Latest COVID surge puts strain on local primary, urgent care facilities

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 6:57 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Omicron is crushing records, in terms of positivity rates and average new daily cases of the virus. While leaders continue to worry about the impact the new variant will have on our hospitals, the same struggle is happening behind the scenes at neighborhood doctor’s offices and urgent cares.

Whether its COVID related, or you sprained your wrist putting way your Christmas decorations, Omicron could have an impact on getting seen in a timely manner.

Thursday morning, the walk-in wait times at some Wilmington Medac Urgent Care centers were up to five hours long. In the last week, urgent cares have had to turn patients away before closing time because they had met their daily capacity for care.

“Anytime we get a new surge, our volumes go up, and as a result, our wait times go up as well,” explained Andreas Linke, a PA-C for FastMed Urgent Care.

Primary care offices are feeling the pressure from Omicron too.

“We’re seeing record high calls, record high tests — it’s overwhelming,” explained Wilmington Health community liaison Alexis Hunter.

Experts say this wave is vastly different from the impact of the Delta variant — between its contagiousness, the staffing shortages they’re facing, and the supply chain challenges as well.

“I was in a clinic yesterday and I was there for probably four or five hours and the phone didn’t stop ringing. It literally constantly rang,” said Hunter. “One person is having to fill the job of multiple people.”

Both FastMed and Wilmington Health agree the bulk of the surge they’re seeing recently stems from testing.

“We’re seeing more and more people who either have some sort of symptom that is related to COVID and they want to know if they have COVID or you know they have to be cleared for work or for travel or for some other type of purpose. More and more tests are required these days,” said Hunter.

Despite the fact that this variant seems to be milder for most vaccinated people, there’s no denying the strain it still puts on our healthcare system, and the people who work in these offices.

“We are definitely on the front lines in acute care — living the COVID care cycle for the last few years,” said Linke.

“We’re tired — we’ve been doing this for two years now and every time we think that maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, another wave comes,” said Hunter. “Hopefully people will give grace and be patient. We can work together, our community can come together. Help each other out, be patient with one another and the only way out is to work alongside each other.”

Health experts say the best way to stay healthy and remove the burden on their staff is to get the vaccine and your booster shot.

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