Gem State Roundup

Surge of COVID-19 patients pushes Boise-area urgent care over capacity

By: - August 31, 2021 8:25 am
Photo of the front of a Primary Health Medical Group clinic

Primary Health Medical Group operates 21 urgent care and primary health clinics around the Treasure Valley. (Courtesy of Primary Health Medical Group)

Thousands of patients are flooding urgent care clinics in the Boise area, forcing the clinics to stop taking new patients earlier than usual.

Primary Health Medical Group on Monday had a record number of urgent care patients, according to a news release from the organization that runs 21 clinics in the Treasure Valley.

There were more than 2,000 visits to the clinics that day, with most patients showing up to be evaluated or tested for COVID-19, the release said.

“The surge is placing additional strain on an already exhausted and overworked health care force, and jeopardizes the public’s access to walk-in health care, a critical service Treasure Valley residents have come to rely upon over the past nearly 30 years,” the release said.

Dr. David Peterman, a pediatrician and CEO of Primary Health, said in the news release that the latest wave of COVID-19 cases is affecting clinic operations in every way. He said the clinics are on track to get 80,000 phone calls this month, and patients are having to wait “much longer than usual” to see a provider.

“Starting today, we will be closing our doors an hour early, at 7 p.m., to ensure we don’t check in more patients than we can see before the day is over,” he said. “I’ve been in urgent care and primary care for 30 years, and it’s inconceivable to me we’re at a point where we can’t see all the patients who want to see us. Our health care workers are exhausted and working hard to see every patient and answer every call. But at some point, it’s just too much. This is a serious crisis. I am pleading with the public to wear your mask. Get your vaccine. If we can’t see you, you’ll have to go to the hospital, and the hospitals are full.”

Primary Health said the public can alleviate the strain on local health care systems by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, which is available for free to anyone age 12 and older, at local pharmacies, drug stores and clinics. The group also encouraged the public to wear masks in all indoor public places, “especially schools, and outdoors when you can’t properly distance …”

Primary Health urges existing patients to use the online patient portal to contact health care providers, instead of calling the clinic on the phone.

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, radio journalism, data visualization and much more.