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Urgent care centers see influx of patients

More and more people are either avoiding long waits at the emergency room or visiting an urgent care facility for COVID-19 testing services.

VIRGINIA, USA — Hospital systems in Hampton Roads are no exception to a national trend. They’re dealing with a surge of patients, sick with coronavirus. 

And as we’ve reported, that’s meant longer wait times for other people in the emergency room. 

Urgent care centers in Hampton Roads are also seeing an influx in people walking through their doors.

RELATED: 'We ended up waiting five hours for triage' | Family describes long wait in emergency room in Norfolk

It was not the weekend Arthur Lewis of Norfolk expected. He spent 17 hours in the emergency room waiting area at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

“That’s… that’s unacceptable," he said.

His x-rays and treatment for a gastrointestinal issue took about two and a half more hours. 

“I’m a patient person, but 19 hours and 25 minutes when a person is in severe pain—seemingly some other accommodations could have been made.”

Lewis told 13News Now he was pleased by the care he received once he got into the ER. But it was his wait time, along with others in the room, that most concerned him.

A statement from Sentara reads in part that they are not turning patients away, but like many hospitals across Virginia, they are seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients. They say they’re prepared to adjust and expand capabilities as needed to continue care.

Sentara Healthcare is not turning patients away, but like many hospitals across Virginia, we are seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients in our facilities. The majority of these COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. We are prepared to adjust and expand our capabilities as needed to continue caring for all of the communities we serve. Aggregate data presents a more accurate picture for the region and helps drive public health decision-making, more than what an individual hospital capacity is on a given day. Sentara Healthcare provides all relevant data with the Virginia and North Carolina health departments and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which is publishing its dashboard of COVID-19 activity across the Commonwealth. You can view the VHHA COVID-19 dashboard here and search by city.

We strongly encourage all community members who are eligible and able to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to the virus. —Sentara Healthcare Spokesperson

What’s happening in local hospital systems has a ripple effect on clinics and urgent care facilities.

“We are seeing more patients coming to our urgent care centers," said Velocity Urgent Care CEO Barbara Smith. Velocity has nearly a dozen of facilities in the Hampton Roads area. 

"We've heard from patients coming in who have shared with our staff and providers that they are being redirected from emergency departments," said Smith. 

Patients can schedule an appointment or walk-in.

“However, we let them know that they may have an extended wait time and patience is really important right now as our staff and providers are really doing all they can to help facilitate their care," said Smith. 

They're also seeing more patients for COVID-19 testing, given the so-called "fourth wave," 

"Is that a service with surging interest right now," we asked. "Yes, it is," said Smith. 

In all, Smith hopes that people won’t delay seeking the health care they need, which is why she says Velocity looking at the possibility of a telehealth option for patients.