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Hampton Roads urgent care doctors worry about decrease in patient visits

''There’s probably some public perception whether they could get COVID by going to an urgent care or emergency department.''

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Urgent care patient volume is down more than 50 percent nationwide, according to the Urgent Care Association.

Those numbers have doctors worried people may be foregoing needed care in fear of the pandemic.

Velocity Urgent Care’s CEO said their offices across Hampton Roads saw a decline in visits almost immediately, starting on March 15.

“We have seen a decline in our volumes, certainly that has been a trend in urgent cares across the nation,” said Velocity Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tiffany Sibley. “Some areas are seeing a decrease in their emergency departments as well.”

Dr. Sibley said the stay-at-home order is not the only factor.

“There’s probably some public perception whether they could get COVID by going to an urgent care or emergency department,” Dr. Sibley said.

Whatever the reason, Sibley cautions that putting off care is dangerous.

“If you have a urinary tract infection, ear infection... those aren’t issues that you want to wait around for weeks to get fixed later,” Sibley said.

She said common cases like lacerations, rashes, burns, etc. could worsen without care.

“So much so, that it may require you to go into the emergency department at that point,” Sibley said.

A recent Velocity newsletter release said 911 calls that were unrelated to COVID-19 are now on the rise.

Sentara’s media spokesperson said they haven’t seen that, however more of their patients are visiting doctors online. They said prior to March, they had an average of 20 virtual visits. Now, that’s up to 2,000 visits daily.

Riverside Regional Medical Center’s spokesperson said they have seen a slight decrease in people coming to the emergency department. He said if you are not feeling well, call your physician. 

They also have a 24-hour nurse triage center that can discuss health issues and recommend the next steps. They can be reached at 757-595-6364

Sibley said patients can rest assured that their offices are constantly sanitized.

“Every few hours we are wiping everything down,” Sibley said.

She hopes people will seek help if needed.

“Everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing with social distancing,” Sibley said. “But that does not mean essential healthcare.”

This week Velocity started drive-up COVID-19 testing at their Red Mill location in Virginia Beach and in Newport News.

Currently, they are testing Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sibley said they are using CDC screening criteria. They’ve had a lot of people line up and said they look to open more locations in the coming days.

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