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Memphians see hours-long wait times in urgent care clinic

“When you need care quickly, it’s kind of scary,” said Lakeland resident Chip Averwater.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Seasonal illnesses are rearing their ugly heads again in the Mid-South, and it’s causing a major issue for people seeking major medical attention. 

Sometimes you can see it on the inside, and sometimes on the outside, but for some, it’s a struggle just to get an appointment.

“When you need care quickly it’s kind of scary,” said Lakeland resident Chip Averwater.

Averwater was on a vacation just a few weeks ago.  A time meant for peace and relaxation was instead met with a medical emergency.

“I cut my leg when I was in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and when I got home it was infected and I needed to get the stitches out,” said Averwater.

Once he returned home to Lakeland, Averwater was not able to go to his usual doctor, instead, he had to turn to urgent care. It’s a journey that many share, according to Dr. Lloyd and Shannon Finks at ZüpMed. The two say there is now a shortage of access to primary care providers, a problem that started before the pandemic, with several physicians quitting or retiring.  

On top of that, according to doctors, seasonal viruses like COVID-19 and the flu have led to an increase of testing and treatment, driving up demand for urgent care even more. It’s now leading to patients experiencing longer than average wait times.

“Some of the places I called would be a couple of days maybe before they could get me in, maybe a couple of hours to see me,” said Averwater.

According to Dr. Finks, urgent care clinics like ZüpMed have been beyond capacity for several weeks. Staff have been working late to help accommodate the efforts.  Still, people like Averwater looking to other newer clinics for care, like East Memphis Urgent Medical Clinic.

“They’re waiting all day to be seen, and here at our clinic you’re seen within 20 minutes max,” said Kassie Greer, East Memphis Urgent Medical Clinic Manager, “If you don’t feel good, you want to get home and rest and get to feeling better, nobody wants to sit in a waiting room for hours and hours.”

“It’s a tremendous relief when you need service to find somebody who says ‘Yeah! Come In,” said Averwater.

In a statement to ABC24, Baptist Healthcare Services said, “Like many clinics across the country, Baptist Minor Medical Centers have seen an increase in demand for testing and treatment of seasonal viruses and ailments, such as flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases. We are prepared to treat our community and offer a number of options to help reduce wait times for patients at select clinics, including appointment placeholders and TeleHealth visits through MyChart.  We also encourage everyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 and flu vaccine.”

It’s also recommended that people call urgent care clinics ahead of time to see what their appointments or wait time may look like, and to wear a mask if you find yourself in a wait room for a long time.

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