KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Urgent care clinics in the Kansas City area are seeing more patients than ever.
HCA Midwest Health operates 10 "CareNow' urgent care centers throughout the area.
"Overall, urgent care volume has increased nearly 15% from this same time period in 2021. However, COVID volumes have increased by more than 50%. Additionally, half of the patients we are seeing are requiring COVID testing," Christine Hamele, a spokesperson for HCA Midwest Health said. "On average, CareNow clinics are collectively performing over 200 rapid tests daily, with a positivity rate returning at an alarming rate of over 40%."
Still, such clinics are providing some relief for hospitals.
As of Wednesday, the Saint Luke's Health System is treating 236 COVID-19 patients at all their hospitals.
It’s their highest number yet during this pandemic.
"It's frustrating, it's hard. We at times feel like we're speaking but no one's listening that it really is important to go out and get vaccinated," Dr. Marc Larsen, emergency physician on Saint Luke’s COVID-19 Response Team said.
With space limited at emergency rooms doctors urge people to avoid them as their first choice for care, unless it's truly an emergency.
"If you just have COVID symptoms, or COVID exposure and you're not complaining of any of the major symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, near passing out episodes, things like that, then it's really it's best to just stay at home and closely monitor yourself," Dr. Larsen said.
But some sick people are visiting urgent care clinics as an alternative.
Since October, Saint Luke’s Urgent Care at Mission Farms has experienced a 20% increase in volume and Saint Luke’s Urgent Care at Shoal Creek has experienced an 82% increase.
Liberty Hospital point outs daily visits at their urgent care clinic went up 40% over the previous week.
"Like healthcare organizations nationwide, our urgent care also is experiencing a shortage of staff due to employees calling out sick," Michelle Manuel, a spokesperson for Liberty Hospital said. "If any person — pediatric or adult — is sick or injured and does not require emergency care, we recommend they call their primary care physician, if they are able, for guidance as to whether an office visit, urgent care or ER is recommended. If their primary care office offers a nurse hotline, that is also a good option to help identify the proper level of care needed."
AdventHealth Centra Care says before the holidays and omicron each clinic saw about 40 to 50 folks each day, now it's almost double.
"We have a three to four hour wait for testing, everybody's wanting to get testing," Brandy Stephen, regional director of operations for Adventhealth Centra Care said.
Between quarantines and short staffing, they're working with about 50% less staff.
"We had to do some modified hours, and close a clinic for a few days, until we can get back on our feet," Stephen said.
It's a hardship Children's Mercy Hospital is familiar with, as leaders tell say their number of patients continue to climb.
They saw 491 patients last Thursday at their two emergency departments and three urgent care clinics and that number has increased each day. On Tuesday they saw 664 patients.
One of their doctors providing this glimmer of hope.
"With school being back in session and schools masking I think it is definitely impacting our volumes in a good way and helping you know, helping decrease some of the spread as much as possible," Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital said.
HCA and other healthcare systems do offer telehealth services where you don't even leave your home to speak with a doctor.
But if you need to visit an urgent care clinic, you're encourage to sign-up on-line before showing up.