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Lowcountry Urgent Care swamped with patients amid Covid spike

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:24 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:59 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Lowcountry Urgent Care in Walterboro is facing a challenge keeping up with all of the patients walking through its doors.

On Tuesday, staff took to social media to ask for patience as the parking lot filled up and the time in the waiting room increased.

“It’s crazy. . . In the last 5-6 days we have seen it absolutely skyrocket,” said Megan Gibbons, director of clinical services for Lowcounty Urgent Care. “Typically, I would say we are probably seeing up to three times our normal amount of patients. So currently, we’re seeing well over 120 patients a day. We have seen two and a half, three hour waits because of the volume influx.”

The Walterboro clinic has just two providers and Gibbons says some patients are not taking the longer wait times in stride.

“There has been, you know, some threats and some cursing, issues with our patients and our staff,” Gibbons said. “We just ask that everybody show patience and kindness because we all are trying to do everything we can to support the community. We are seeing as many people as humanly possibly each day.”

The demand for testing is the number one driver of wait times for the urgent care. Bridget Winston with the South Carolina Office of Rural Health says they’re hearing from rural hospitals that staffing can be as equally challenging as the surge of patients continues.

“They’ve got staff who are getting COVID themselves or you know, perhaps caring for a family member at home who has contracted covid,” Winston said. “So then they are short staff in a time where demand for testing is very high. So that has been a problem.”

Winston says many of the rural hospitals are transferring covid patients to larger hospitals. While that may take a patient away from family and friends, it is helping to keep the doors open at some of these scattered facilities that are sometimes the only option for miles around.

“Certainly, there is burnout and certainly they are working nonstop. Certainly, they have staffing shortages that they’re trying to keep up with, but, you know, we have not heard from any of them that it has been a dire situation or a catastrophic situation,” Winston said. “No one has had to close their doors, to our knowledge.”

Winston says their biggest concern is simply making sure that rural clinics continue to receive the same resource and supplies as more urban centers.

She says they aren’t seeing shortages now, but are watching the availability of testing supplies as the omicron surge continues. She says it’s imperative to make sure rural residents have equitable access to healthcare.

Gibbons says one problem that is bogging things down is people who think they were exposed to covid but don’t have symptoms and can’t accurately be tested yet. She says if you have been exposed you need to wait 2 to 3 days before getting tested, unless you have symptoms for a test to be accurate.

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