BOISE, Idaho — The strain on health care workers around the Treasure Valley continues as more and more patients visit urgent care clinics. Health groups told KTVB most of the increase is from COVID-19 related patients.
"We've been noticing a trend for the past month or so and it really, significantly increasing in the past few weeks," said Dr. Daniel Bridger, the medical director for Saint Alphonsus Medical Group Urgent Care. "It's really been a significant change."
Saint Alphonsus Medical Group announced 11 urgent care clinics will close their doors to patients an hour earlier starting Wednesday. This move will allow for providers and staff to care for patients who arrive up to closing time.
Bridger said much of the increased volume in patients come in the evening hours, which has made it difficult for staff. He explains patients will arrive right up to closing and it forces staff to stay two to three hours past the time they were supposed to be off. He adds those same staff members must return back to the clinic early the next morning.
"Part of working in the urgent care, I think we all know, there may be some busy evenings and there may be times where we stay late," Bridger said. "But the consistent two to three hours after closure and the volumes with the increased acuity has really been exhausting for staff."
Saint Alphonsus will still have MyeVisit open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Primary Health Medical Group has been implementing its new hours for nearly two weeks. Employees have been closing their doors at 7 p.m.
Dr. David Peterman, the CEO of Primary Health, also attributes the increased number of patients for their reduction in hours.
"Normally, we see about 1,000 patients a day in August in our urgent care, the last 10 days we've been seeing over 2,000 patients many of the days," Peterman said.
It's also been a mix of staffing shortages and staff members calling out sick for the medical group. They have a vaccine requirement in place for all staff members, but Peterman said 91 percent are vaccinated and eight percent have an exemption for medical or religious reasons.
"We would certainly hire more staff if we could, we have 40-50 openings," Peterman said. "There just aren't people to hire."
Peterman said although they've only been closing an hour earlier, it's still been a tremendous weight lifted off the shoulders of employees.
"It sends the message to the employees at Primary Health, we care about them and we have to help them someway," Peterman said. "It gives the staff more time at the end of the day to finish their charting and frankly get ready for the next morning."
Both medical groups said turning people away is not why they or other healthcare workers got into the industry. However, to provide the best care and not continue to be overwhelmed day in and day out, reducing hours are necessary to do so.
"Just imagine, if you're having difficulty answering the phones, if it's hard to see patients because you just have so many of them and you can't test them - it has reverberating ramifications to the whole system," Peterman said.
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