Growing demand for COVID tests stretching urgent care staff thin
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana's fourth COVID-19 surge is causing problems not just for hospitals, but now urgent care centers. Hundreds of people are waiting to get tested for COVID-19 each day in Baton Rouge.
"Even though we close at 5, there are people that are still being seen at 7, 7:30 because the backlog is so high,” said Dr. Rubin Patel.
Patel is the founder and CEO of Patient Plus Urgent Care. There are seven clinics across the city, and he says all of them are busy.
"We've been doing anywhere from 400 to 500 tests a day at our clinics,” said Dr. Patel. “It’s incredible.”
For customers, that means longer wait times.
"I would say we're having two to three hour waits at most of our locations,” said Dr. Patel.
That's how long Andrew White and his wife, who is seven months pregnant, waited to get tested on Wednesday at the Lake Urgent Care on Coursey Blvd.
"We got there at 3 and walked out at 6:30,” said White.
The couple was potentially exposed over the weekend but tested negative. The experience was eye opening for the two though, seeing how swamped the front line workers were.
"When we left they looked so exhausted, the staff, and my wife ended up getting emotional when we left because you could tell they were working non-stop,” said White.
"It is tiresome, of course it's tiresome,” acknowledged Dr. Patel.
The CEO has had to reduce operation hours on the weekends to let his staff catch their breath. Seven of his staff were out sick with the virus last week. That’s one worker less at each of his clinics.
"If we don't give them a little break their immune systems start going down and they start to catch COVID,” said Dr. Patel.
For Lake Urgent Care, three of the centers are closed right now according to their website. A sign at the Highland and Airline location stated due to the surge in infections, they're condensing their workforce to keep the maximum number of fully functional locations.
"People just need to understand the health care industry, these urgent care workers they're doing the best they can,” said White.
A lesson learned while waiting -- White says he now knows the most important part about being a patient is having patience.
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