By Loren Grush
It has been four days since Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, and power has yet to return to several communities. While many residents and businesses have been impacted by the loss of power, doctors’ offices have also suffered – keeping many sick patients from seeing their primary care physicians.
As an alternative for medical treatment during these widespread power outages, patients have been turning to various walk-in clinics throughout the New England area, resulting in an overflow of patients at many of these clinics.
“We’ve been so busy here,” Dr. Michael Tugetman, a board-certified family practitioner from Doctors Express, a walk-in clinic in Hartsdale, N.Y., told FoxNews.com. “Over the last two days, we’ve had a 30 percent increase. We saw about 50 patients on Wednesday and close to 40 on Thursday.”
Dr. Ned Shami, a board-certified ER doctor and chief operating officer of CityMD Urgent Care, reported seeing a similar influx in patients. On a normal day, each of CityMD’s four Manhattan clinics see approximately 75 to 90 patients. This past week, Shami said there has been a “30 to 40 percent increase in volume.”
“We were ready for the increase,” Shami added. “We expected it, especially with so many other offices closed. We tripled and at some points quadrupled physician coverage. Normally, we have two doctors on hand – we had five at a time this week to handle the increase.”
The biggest reason for the increase, Shami explained, is that many patients are unable to see their primary care physicians, particularly those whose doctors’ offices are located in areas of Manhattan that have lost power.
“There’s a lack of access to care,” he said. “…There have been patients who couldn’t get to their normal physician’s office – especially in downtown [Manhattan], and those who were scheduled for follow-up care at NYU or other hospitals that were evacuated.”
To complicate matters, with the weather fluctuating from warm to cold and the fact that many suffer from limited heating capabilities from loss of power, Tugetman said he’s seen a significant increase in patients with sinus problems or flu-like symptoms.