GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA)– Some Upstate Health providers said they’re overwhelmed or slammed with patients, as South Carolina experiences a surge in COVID-19.
EmergencyMD Advanced Urgent Care, typically closes at 7 p.m. during the week, but one day this week, they had to close two hours earlier.
“We have been seeing an increase in our number of patients coming. We’re actually closing early today, just because of the volume of patients that we’ve had over the past couple of days after the Christmas season,” said Elizabeth Oglesby, Physician Assistant at EmergencyMD. “So before Christmas, I would say we were still busy. We’ve been busy with the whole winter season, with COVID as well,” Oglesby said. “But I would say that we were up probably about a third from what we were seeing before, what we’ve seen this week with patients,” she said.
Oglesby said normally they see around 50 patients a day, but Wednesday they saw upwards of 80 patients.
“So really people are coming in with a wide range of symptoms. It can be as easy as the common cold, coming in, with a sore throat and some congestion. Or they’re coming in and their oxygen saturation is really low, and they have pneumonia and it’s all from COVID,” Olgesby said. “Some of our staff have also gotten COVID, and so they’ve been out and so it’s just hard. We have been hiring more new people, but it is hard with just the share increase in the volume of patients to you know, have enough manpower to quickly get people in and out like they expect with urgent care,” Olgesby said. “I think our patients at least are seeing that they are waiting a little bit longer because it’s taking us longer to get to everyone just because we don’t have as much staff,” she said. “The shared volume that we’ve seen this week has been…I don’t think we’ve seen that since I’ve been here.”
State Health Department officials said this trend is happening across the state.
“The hospitals are managing the load and doing well,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “It is putting strain on their staff though, and I’m very concerned about our health care workers,” Simmer said. “I think what we are seeing now, is that the emergency departments and the urgent care centers are starting to get a bit overwhelmed, starting to really develop some lines, and having people wait longer than they would like,” Simmer said.
“We are still seeing, you know, a wide range of what we normally see with an urgent care, but I think there’s just an influx of COVID on top of that,” Olgesby said. “We have been seeing a lot of pneumonia as well, but some of it is developing from a COVID infection,” she said.
Redi Care Urgent Care in Anderson is also seeing an influx of patients.
“Major influx in sick visits. I would say our numbers have doubled prior to December. Yeah, mid-December to the end of December we’ve doubled our numbers of patients we see a day,” said Jaime Bright, Nurse Practitioner at Redi Care Urgent Care. “We’re seeing probably 50% of our sick visits are COVID positive patients,” she said.
While one owner of Redi Care Urgent Care said they are slammed, he said it’s not just from COVID patients.
“I think one reason why we are saying that we’re slammed is not just because of COVID,” said Charles Bright Jr., Co-owner of Redi Care Urgent Care. “Now you’ve got people fighting bronchitis, strep throat and the flu and other things, that they’re coming in for. So along with COVID coming in, and the COVID numbers picking up, you still see the everyday activity that stopped the first time,” Bright said.
“Our staff is tight. They’re all full-time employees and they all work every day, all day and they don’t take days off,” Jaime said. “So we don’t have any leniency with them,” she said. “You know, if our employees get sick, we’re short-staffed.”
Jaime even had to help the facility while fighting the virus from home.
“Our entire household has contracted the virus and we’ve been at home trying to recover and trying to handle the business and help patients,” Jaime said. “I’m sick at home, and I’m trying to do lab results that may be coming in over the weekend or late at night,” she said.
Now, these health professionals are asking everyone to do what they can to stay safe.
“I don’t think it’s necessary that we cancel get togethers or holiday festivities or things like that, I just think you have to be really careful…that if your nose is burning, you’re sneezing, you’ve got a running nose, that this new variant, those symptoms are a lot like the common cold,” Charles said. “If you’re sick, you have any symptoms, stay home.”
“I would say, definitely be cautious. If people are having any small symptoms, sore throat, congestion, I would say be cautious, not only for yourself but for the others around you,” Olgesby said. “I’d say wear a mask definitely out and about, everywhere. I’d also say get vaccinated if you can. Wash your hands, just doing normal stuff you would do to prevent the flu,” she said. “I’d say COVID is definitely real. We have been seeing. We’ve admitted people to the hospital because of it. It’s definitely still here,” Olgesby said.