Urgent cares see wait times lengthen with COVID surge

Doctor generic
Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 01, 2020

PHOENIX — The rising number of COVID cases means more Arizonans are flooding into emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. Many are finding longer wait times, as the facilities juggle testing potential coronavirus-positive patients with everyday illnesses and injuries.

Tuesday, near 59th Avenue and McDowell, Anne Rivera was in pain and frustrated.

"I need my knee and my ribs x-rayed because I fell down yesterday," said Rivera.

The 68-year-old, though, was turned away from the closest urgent care clinic, because she did not have an appointment.

"I was going to hand her my driver's license and she didn’t even take it," said Rivera. "She said we are taking appointments only now... They only have one doctor."

Diana Valladolid ran into the same situation when she tried to get help for knee pain.

"They told me to call other areas, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the same thing," said the mother of three. "It’s kind of disappointing because you can't come in and get checked like you [could] before."

Online Tuesday, the west side NextCare clinic showed 40 patients in line.

Most locations had fewer people in line, but nearly all were busy.

"Right now the demand is everywhere," said Dr. Rick Singh, Senior VP of Medical Operations for NextCare. "We do our best to make sure we accommodate everyone’s needs, as much as possible."

Dr. Singh says NextCare's 43 Arizona clinics have seen an increased demand for COVID-19 testing, which sometimes leads to a longer wait for everyday injuries or illness.

"Two to three hours at the most," said Dr. Singh. "It all depends on staffing and demand."

Doctors, though, say a longer wait is no excuse to delay your care.

"Waiting is sometimes a lot worse, because then you have patients coming into the hospital when they are very, very sick and we can’t intervene earlier," said Dr. Sam Durani, who heads up the HonorHealth medical staff COVID-19 testing team.

Experts say, if you can, always try to schedule an appointment ahead of time to minimize your potential exposure to others, especially if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

"Right now we have the resources to care for patients if they feel sick. They need to come, they need to get tested, they need to get treated, before it becomes very serious," said Dr. Durani. "The hospital is probably the safest environment in the community."