Healthcare facilities in Alexandria are busy, but it’s not necessarily all because of COVID-19.

The Alexandria Clinic is seeing record number of patient visits and has seen that increase throughout the months of June, July, August and September, according to Brad Lenertz, administrative director at Alexandria Clinic, a service of Alomere Health.

“While our volumes in the clinic are well above normal, record highs as previously mentioned, it is not primarily due to the Delta variant,” he said. “Without a doubt, some of our volume can be attributed to COVID care and responding to signs and symptoms. I would characterize that much of our increased volume is attributed to people needing routine and preventative care that should no longer be delayed due to the pandemic.”

Brad Lenertz
Brad Lenertz

Lenertz also said that there is a great need for people who are suffering from secondary impacts of the pandemics such as concerns that impact mental health and the physical manifestation of stress that has occurred over the past 18 months.

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RELATED STORY: Alomere Health in Alexandria responds to 'extremely high' surge in health care needs

Sanford Health Broadway Clinic in Alexandria is also very busy, according to Bruce Evink, family medicine/physician chair.

“We are seeing our patient visits increase overall,” said Evink. “And with the Delta variant of COVID-19, we are concerned about a surge in patients with COVID-19. The Delta variant is more easily spread and we are seeing more children affected.”

On Sept. 30, Horizon Public Health reported 212 active COVID cases in Douglas County – that is nearly six times the 38 cases reported from two months ago.

With an increase in patient visits, both facilities addressed the issue of shortages – both personnel and supplies.

Celeste Gardner, director of human resources for Alomere Health, said they are boosting recruiting efforts for their entire healthcare system.

“We currently have 42 openings system wide. Pre-COVID, we would average between 20-25 open positions,” said Gardner. “We are trying very hard to stay on top of recruiting efforts for our entire healthcare system. We are struggling to have applicants apply for positions that we normally would have many applicants for, especially for our non-patient care support roles.”

Celeste Gardner
Celeste Gardner

Gardner said that fortunately, patient needs are able to be met, but if they continue to struggle to find healthcare workers and continue to see healthcare workers leave their roles because of fatigue and burnout, they will not be able to sustain their current ability to meet the needs of all patients.

Evink said, “Like any other healthcare facility, our teams are tired and staffing is tight. So far, we have been able to maintain our patient schedules but we are also actively hiring.”

He added that they want to be able to continue to take care of all patients – whether it’s for COVID-19, routine visit or emergency care.

As for supplies, Evink said his facility has not experienced a shortage and that he is thankful the clinic is part of the Sanford Health system.

“We are grateful to be part of Sanford Health and have the support and strength of a large health system while caring for people in a rural community,” he said.

Echo Press file photo
Echo Press file photo

Mark Thoe, director of materials management for Alomere Health, said medical PPE supplies remain low, but are much better than how it was in 2020.

“Most products remain on allocation but Alomere staff have been very diligent in the use of all supplies,” he said. “An increasing problem is the transportation delays. Much of the product is produced overseas and the shipping industry is experiencing lengthy delays to get freight off-loaded in the U.S.”

Regardless of what is happening with regard to staffing shortages or supply shortages, Lenertz said, “We are here to help. If a member of our community doesn't have a relationship with a primary care provider, we can help them get established with someone to match their needs and help them navigate their way to health and well-being. We have a team of primary care providers who are ready to serve.”

He said it’s important to know that the Alexandria Clinic can provide care for many symptomatic patients from the comfort of their own home or office, as well as through the convenience of a telehealth visit – either phone or video.

“You don’t always need to be seen in person to get the medical care you might need,” he said.

Dr. Bruce Evink
Dr. Bruce Evink

Evink reminded people that each individual in the community needs to do their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control.

This means, he said, getting the COVID-19 vaccine, practicing good hand hygiene, masking, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. In addition, if people have symptoms or are in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should get tested early. And he said it is also critical that everyone get their flu vaccine this year.

“We are so appreciative of all of our healthcare workers and their continued hard work,” he said. “Please get vaccinated and stay safe.”