COVID-19 surge straining primary and urgent care clinics

Outside the UW Medicine urgent care in Ballard, Anthony Fogelstrom waited for his turn to check in for help with an injury.

“I crashed on one of those rental bikes,” he said.

The website listed a wait time of four hours at the clinic late Wednesday morning.

UW Medicine stated waits now average between one and three hours.

“I’ve got the day off work since I can’t work, so I can be here all day if I need to,” Fogelstrom said.

The delta-driven COVID-19 surge is putting a strain on Seattle-area primary and urgent care clinics.

“We’ve had almost doubling of our volumes from six or eight weeks ago; it’s fairly dramatic,” said Dr. Francis Mercado of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Much of that is driven by COVID-19 patients.

The Everett Clinic stated more patients are coming in for testing.

UW Medicine reported more COVID-19 visits in urgent care, plus vaccinated patients seeking treatment for other problems.

“Everyone who’s coming in for that arm that was hurting them for a week, or that UTI, they’re coming back. They’re feeling a little more comfortable in coming back,” said Jacky Perez, who manages the clinic in Ballard.

When people come in with COVID-19-like symptoms, it takes a while to change personal protective equipment between patients.

Brooke Lippincott of Swedish Medical Group said the recent surge in patients comes on top of a shortage of health care workers.

With intensive care units full of COVID-19 patients, primary care doctors in Swedish clinics are sometimes reassigned to hospitals.

“We are sending primary care doctors to be extenders in the hospital to give our inpatient doctors some support,” Lippincott said.

Swedish is directing patients to virtual visits whenever possible and asking people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.