Omicron Pushes Short-Staffed Urgent Care Centers to the Brink

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Clinics across the US are temporarily closing as the COVID-19 version affects staff and tests increase demand

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CityMD, a chain of urgent care clinics in the New York City area, closed 31 of its locations in recent weeks, including 12 on Wednesday. A spokesman said more locations could be closed.

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Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care has temporarily closed about 10 of its 55 locations in New York in recent days, according to Neil Shipley, medical director of its New York urgent care market.

“We’re trying to balance the need to provide testing with the need to be open and accessible to other things,” Dr Shipley said.

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The University of Chicago Medical Center this week closed one of its immediate support locations so that it can redeploy staff and consolidate resources across its network. In the Milwaukee area, Advocate Aurora Health closed three of its urgent care centers because of staffing issues and increased demand, a spokeswoman said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a nearly 60% increase in reported Covid-19 cases in the US this week. The CDC said Wednesday’s seven-day daily average of cases recorded nearly 240,400 infections a day. The agency this week required isolating the number of asymptomatic people with Covid-19 from 10 to five, which would allow people to return to work more quickly.

According to CDC data, 710 million tests were conducted in the previous week, compared to 688 million tests in the week ending December 9.

“The patient numbers are not closing in,” said Lou Allen Horwitz, chief executive officer of the Urgent Care Association. The group represents more than 4,000 urgent care centers in the US and abroad.

“The employees are sick and have to stay at home; That is the blow we cannot absorb,” she said. “By the time this thing peaks and falls we’re going to see more closures.”

An increase in the number of urgent care locations in recent years is causing widespread staff shortages, Ms. Horwitz said. The year-on-year growth averaged 10%, reaching 12% in 2019. Growth slowed in 2020 and 2021, but said it expected more centers to open in 2022.

However, the hiring has not been able to keep up with the demand. There are hundreds of thousands of open positions across the country, he said, primarily for medical assistants and radiologic technologists—specific support roles in urgent care.

In California, Doctors on Duty expects it to temporarily close two of its nine locations in the coming weeks, when omicron cases are expected to peak in the region.

“The dire staffing situation in general hits at a time when we’re most vulnerable,” said Scott Pryce, medical director of Doctors on Duty, which operates in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

“Like other employers, we are having a hard time hiring people in general,” Dr. Prissy said.

Kimberly S. at [email protected] write to johnson

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