Oklahoma outpatient clinics reaching limits as COVID-19 cases climb

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – “We really want to help people,” said Chief Medical Officer for Variety Care, Dr. Lydia Nightingale. 

That universal mission for Oklahoma healthcare workers is getting tougher to fulfill. 

“As an outpatient clinic, we really want to help patients not abuse the hospital system or need the hospital system, the problem is what we’re seeing is that so many more patients have need right now,” said Dr. Nightingale. 

Just like our metro hospitals, numbers are also up for clinics like Variety Care. 

They’re seeing everything from COVID-19 patients to folks who just need to be seen for preventative care. 

“I think what we had a year ago is people that did not want to get out and see their doctors, and so people put off mammograms, colon cancer screenings, immunizations, routine care… they’re now trying to make up some of that,” she said. 

Dr. Nightingale stressing to KFOR there is a limit to what they can provide. 

“There is a limit to the hospital systems. There’s a limit to healthcare in general and we are at that point where we really are breaking,” Nightingale said. 

On average, their call center takes about 40,000 calls a month. For the month of August, they had 80,000 calls. 

Even with that added stress, staff is working long hours, adding patients to their schedules, so they can treat as many people as possible. 

They’ve had to triage some of their care to make room. 

They are limiting visits to only sick patients, having to push preventative care appointments back at least a month for some. 

“I’m fielding calls every day of we can’t get everyone in, we can’t see everyone,” said Dr. Nightingale. 

In addition, they are no longer testing asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. 

“In a perfect world, we would be doing that because you want to provide those tests and those answers, but in that triage need… we have to take care of the people that are sick,” she said. 

This is yet another plea from experts to wear a mask, get your vaccine, and stay home if you’re sick. 

“This is impacting all of us, whether it’s COVID related or not,” she said. “For our part, we’re just pleading with people to do your part.”

Dr. Nightingale says their rural clinics are just as full, without the ability to send their patients elsewhere. 

Variety Care does offer the vaccine

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